Panera Bread wants to help raise money for a little girl who was deeply embarrassed in their restaurant.
Franchise officials are offering to help fund-raise for 2 year old Emma Duke after an employee asked the toddler to remove her squeaky orthopedic shoes because they were bothering a customer.
Emma's mother, Catherine Duke, says her daughter has an undiagnosed developmental disorder but says she is thankful because fundraising may actually help determine Emma's diagnosis.
Duke says even though they have insurance, bills are piling up. Emma has undergone numerous tests and more are to come.
"The bills are astronomical, just one of her tests is more than my husband makes in a year," said Duke.
Panera Bread officials sat down Tuesday with Emma and her family, offering sincere apologizes and offering to help with three fundraisers.
"I really feel like it's something that's being turned for good, I mean she's getting the help she needs," said Duke.
Duke says 100 percent of the proceeds will go towards Emma's medical bills and she says those bills are one of the main reasons why her daughter's disability is still undiagnosed.
"She has a lot of issues related to one major problem, but we just don't know what the major problem is," said Duke.
She says walking was one of Emma's problems until they got the orthopedic inserts and braces for her shoes; items that cost close to $2,000.
The Duke family says they are grateful because Panera is giving them financial hope.
"It's just a matter of getting the right test for her to be able to diagnose what her condition is, and we haven't been able to find a diagnosis because we haven't been able to afford the testing," said Duke.
Panera released a statement saying:
"Panera Bread has always been committed to giving back in our local communities. Our franchisee is pleased to support the Duke family fundraiser and other local events and organizations."
The first fundraiser will be Jan. 25 at the Isle of Hope Baptist Church. Panera is donating breakfast for all the volunteers who help with the bake sale, yard sale and raffle that will begin at 8 a.m.
Panera is also planning a community luncheon, as well as a cookie fundraiser, in February called "Hearts for Emma." Dates and details for these fundraisers are TBA.