Mark Evans and his son, Kent, put their heads together to start a fundraising drive to send Lou Malnati's pizzas to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. News of their efforts has sparked a wave of contributions.
Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Elk Grove Village resident Mark Evans is feeling the deep-dish love.
Forget the 300 Lou Malnati's pizzas that the Air Force veteran wanted to send to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan for a Fourth of July event.
After a Daily Herald story about the "Pizzas 4 Patriots" idea he hatched with his 16-year-old son Kent, Evans has received an outpouring of interest from people who want to help.
As of Tuesday, he was on track to send 3,000 of his favorite Chicago-style pizzas to the Middle East.
A die-hard Lou Malnati's fan who even convinced Caroline Kennedy to try his favorite pizza at a book signing last year in Chicago, Evans says he wants the soldiers to have a slice of home for the holiday.
"I think it's good for them. They're in too good of shape," he joked.
All the attention and interest has floored Evans but he understands why.
"I just think people want to help but they just don't know where to go," Evans said.
He's also fielded numerous interview requests from various media outlets.
And politicians are getting involved, too. He's heard from the camps of both presumptive presidential nominees, Illinois Democrat Barack Obama and Arizona Republican John McCain.
Evans worked with the pizzeria and DHL Global, which volunteered to ship as many of the frozen pizzas as Evans raises money to send.
Anyone interested in helping with the pizza drive can contact Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While this is an unusually large order, the pizzeria is ready.
Lou Malnati's has at least 6,500 of its pizzas stocked for mail orders. Each year, it ships 250,000 pizzas around the country from a plant on the South Side of Chicago.
More pizzas might have to be made early next week before they ship out for the Fourth of July party.
"It's saying 'here's a taste of home,' " Lou Malnati's spokeswoman Mindy Kaplan said.
But she concedes there might be some soldiers who won't feel that way.
"Maybe New Yorkers won't like it so much," Kaplan said.