How many sandwiches does it take to make a pyramid? Three. How many sandwiches does it take to bring your mom on a trip to see the pyramids? Considerably more.
Still, that didn’t stop one devoted son from raising enough bread—and cheesesteak—to make it happen.
Gloria Walker always dreamed of traveling to Giza to see the pyramids, but more than that, she wanted to take her family along. Sadly, Walker was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. Between the cost of travel—an estimated $10,000—and the limitations of her illness, that trip of a lifetime didn’t appear likely in the 56-year-old’s future.
But her son Dustin Vitale was determined to turn his mom’s dream into a reality. He just needed to figure out a way to make it happen.
26-year-old Vitale has three passions—teaching history at First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School, his family—and cheesesteak. (After all, we’re talking Philly, right?)
Vitale admits to scarfing down the delicacy Philadelphia’s so famously known for at least two or three times a week. So what better way than making and selling his favorite sandwich—using his mom’s recipe, of course—to raise the money?
With sale days starting at 4 a.m. to bake homemade rolls, the entire family has been pitching in: Dustin and his wife Hailey share griddle duty; his stepfather is in charge of prep. Dustin’s dad, stepmom, sister, and brother, along with some steadfast friends, have all been working to meet the goal.
They’ve been at it since February.
Vitale began to chronicle the team efforts for Instagram, soon gathering a growing circle of cheesesteak-loving supporters.
“We didn’t know how long the hype was going to last, so we decided to just keep telling everyone and see how many we get,” Vitale told the Philadelphia Enquirer. “We ended up doing 94 in one day and we were like just blown away.”
Along the way, they made a fan of award-winning Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov, who gave Vitale and his crew a five-star Instagram thumbs-up both for their heart and for their cooking.
After that, demand exploded. Without a commercial kitchen, however, Vitale was hard-pressed to keep up with it. That’s when a local food truck owner stepped in with an offer to let the cheesesteak fundraisers work out of his mobile cooking facility.
Over the course of six weeks, the group raised $18,000—enough for Vitale to take the family to Egypt with money to spare. They’re set to go Giza gazing later this year.
While the winning grilling gig turned out to be a game-changer for his mom, Vitale has no plans to switch professional hats as a result. “So many people say, ‘Are you going to jump into this and open up a shop?’” Vitale told the Enquirer. “I could never. I love doing this on the side. My heart and passion is teaching and for the students.”
It seems that passion is as intrinsic to Vitale’s character as cheesesteak is to Philly. That’s why as a devoted son whose mom means the world to him, there’s nothing on this earth—or beyond—he wouldn’t do to see her happy.
“If she would have asked to go to the moon,” he told CBS News, “I would have made that happen, as well.”
Somehow, we believe it.