'Life gave me pizza, so I made peace.'
For a fleeting moment leaving the chemotherapy treatment center, Josh Katrick forgot about the year he'd been having.
He'd just gotten an email telling him that — out of roughly 1,200 names — his was the one randomly selected from a raffle at Mario's Pizza in Northampton, Pennsylvania. A lot of free pizza was coming his way.
The family-owned local hot spot had held a promotion giving away two large pizzas and one two-liter beverage every month throughout 2017.
"I remember coming out of [the chemo treatment center] thinking, 'I just won pizzas for a year!'" Katrick told WFMZ-TV 69 News of that moment in early December. "'That's cool!'"
For Katrick, the news came amid quite a surreal few months.
The 36-year-old learned he has colon cancer in July. He had surgery in August and has since completed seven of 12 rounds of chemotherapy, NBC 10 News reported.
"It’s been a fast time," he told the outlet. "It still feels like the blink of an eye."
Most people would argue a guy like Katrick is more than deserving of a few free slices considering what he's been through lately.
Katrick, however, had other plans in mind.
Katrick asked Mario's — his favorite pizza joint in town — if his free pizza could be given to the Northampton Area Food Bank instead.
"I've been getting so much from family, friends — people I don't even know well — the last few months," he explained to WFMZ, that he didn't think a year's worth of free pizza should be spent on him.
At first, Frank Grigoli, a manager and co-owner's son at Mario's, didn't know what to make of the request.
Before he knew Katrick wanted the pizza to be given to the food bank, Grigoli was a bit befuddled. Mario's has been in business 37 years, after all, and quality is baked into every bite — why would someone pass on a delicious free lunch?
After learning it was about helping Northampton's most vulnerable people, however, Grigoli says Katrick's request brought "tears of joy." "This guy has a big heart," he said.
Still, something was bothering him. "That night, I went to sleep and something didn’t feel right," Grigoli admits. The next day, he decided, "we’re gonna give [Katrick] a gift.”
Inspired by Katrick's selfless deed, Mario's decided to give both Katrick and the food bank a free year of pizza.
"It's better to give than receive," said Giuseppe Aiello, whose father, Giovanni, co-owns the restaurant. "Especially during this time of year — Christmas — it's a great time to think about that and see examples of it around town."
The food bank can choose between having either the same deal Katrick won or throwing a pizza party with the entire year's worth of food and drinks — 24 large pizzas complemented with 12 two-liters — all at once, Grigoli tells Welcometoterranova. So all in all, Mario's is giving away 48 pies to very deserving recipients next year.
Free pizzas aside, things are looking good for Katrick in 2017.
Regardless of his prognosis, though, Katrick is someone who always wants to see the glass as half-full.
“The old attitude of, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade," he said. "Life gave me pizza, so I made peace.”