An ambitious Texas teen was determined to help his high school throw its first-ever prom. When he tragically died in February, it seemed like plans would be stalled. But the restaurant where he waited tables at not only stepped up—it helped raise enough money from 50 locations for a touching tribute.
Former Chili's server Todd Phelan, 19, who died on February 10th after falling from a bridge in Round Rock, Texas, was already trying to raise money for his prom before the accident. After his death, more than 50 Chili's across Texas hosted a February 25th fundraiser in his honor.
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When Phelan found out that his school Cedar Ridge High School might not be able to afford their very first prom (it's the first year all four grades have attended the school together), he wanted to help so he talked to his boss Wes Williams, a managing partner of Chili's who offered to throw a fundraiser at the restaurant.
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“We were just about to get that all planned out before the tragedy," said Williams, who did not return Shine's call for comment.
According to a report, witnesses saw Phelan slip and fall from the Louis Henna Boulevard bridge over Interstate 35 in Round Rock at 5:15 on a Sunday evening. Police say Phelan was hit by an 18-wheeler tractor trailer and survived until he reached the hospital. His official cause of death is pending autopsy reports.
"Todd was a leader so it doesn't surprise me that he was passionate about helping his high school," Phelan's mother Alicia Wooten told Shine. "He was always trying to fix other people's problems. Todd had a great family at Chili's and they've been wonderful to him. I told Todd I would do my best [for him] and although attending the fundraiser was too difficult, I helped pass out fliers. Todd's girlfriend still works at Chili's and I would do anything for them."
Wooten says Chili's is even considering placing a memorial stone in the grass close to the bridge.
Phelan started as a host at Chili's in 2012 and was quickly promoted to a server. "He was truly loved by all and had an incredible heart," Williams said. "He truly cared for people. He was always smiling and happy. Our team is absolutely crushed with this loss. He had a genuine passion for life."
Williams also said Phelan loved his customers and posted frequently on social media networks during his shifts so people could come and visit him.
Daniel Presley, the principal at Cedar Ridge High School did not return Shine's call for comment but told Austin newspaper American-Statesman that Phelan was “really well-liked” and “made everyone feel better after visiting with them regardless of their situation.”
Phelan's goal was to attend Austin Community College and one day open his own bar, said his mother.
A Chili's spokesperson told Shine that each restaurant location donated 10 percent of their food sales on February 25th to the Cedar Ridge Prom fund.
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