‘Doing it for Don’: Community rallies behind local pizza shop owner battling cancer

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A tight-knit community is showing an outpouring of support to a local business owner who was forced to close his doors after 39 years due to a devastating diagnosis.

Don’s Pizza has been a staple in the city of Warwick for decades.

“That was what a lot of people said of Donny, that he wasn’t just serving pizza. He served love and friendship, sponsored so many teams. He is just there for the community as much as they are here for him now, he was there for them,” customer Joanne Miller recalls.

Owner Donald Ryan has been battling stage 4 prostate cancer for the last two years and recently got news that it had spread.

“It was a really tough week for him last week because it was the first week of chemo and what Joanne did was she came in at the perfect time. He was so depressed, just so upset about the restaurant and that he couldn’t serve his community. I just couldn’t believe the outpouring of support from friends of mine and the community of Warwick. People I don’t even know,” his wife Mary Hughes Ryan said.

“It was just a divine appointment maybe. My mom wanted a pizza that night and Don’s is right around the corner and I know he’s got great pizza,” Miller continued. “His phone was out and when I met him he told me about his cancer. I told him I would be praying.”

She later posted to a community Facebook page asking the city for support, receiving nearly 2-thousand posts, handwritten cards, and countless good wishes and prayers from people in the area.

GoFundMe: City rallies for Don’s Pizza owner »

“Then a teacher who’s first-grader who always asked her for Don’s Pizza, even Googled it for her in her phone she called me. Her name was Alicia Rathbun and Ben is the student and she called me and asked if she could set up a GoFundMe. She is the one who did that and that is how we have raised over $10,000 now,” said Miller.

“Joanne, thank you very much. You’ve come just at the right time in my life with the first week of my chemo, all these memories on the internet, so nice. All the love and support, thank you,” Don said.

Don and Mary say all the money raised will help with bills to help pay for the restaurant which is now up for sale and of course the compiling medical bills.

If you have a good news story you would like to share email me at msardelli@wpri.com or find me on Facebook and Twitter. You can find all of our good news stories on wpri.com there you can also sign up to receive our Good News newsletter.

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