By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - With one hug in a spontaneous moment, Scott Van Duzer brought attention to St. Lucie County and his nonprofit organization, the Van Duzer Foundation.
When President Barack Obama stopped by his restaurant, Big Apple Pizza in Fort Pierce on Sept. 9, Mr. Van Duzer swept him up in a bear hug. The images of the encounter, which ran in local and national media, created a sensation, and Mr. Van Duzer has been on a number of television shows and given several interviews about that day.
"I have hugged about 500 people since then," he said. "It's an honor for people to come out and support me and help me help so many people."
The reason the president was there was to acknowledge all the work Mr. Van Duzer has done with his foundation.
Over the years, the foundation has held many fundraisers helping families from all over St. Lucie County.
In other foundation events, this past summer Mr. Van Duzer teamed with the Boys and Girls Club of St. Lucie County to ride bicycles from St. Lucie County to Washington, D.C., to bring national attention to donating blood.
Recently, his foundation got a boost from the famous hug. As people from all over the country found out about the foundation, more than $23,000 was donated.
In addition, people called in, ordering donations of pizza, which the organization has been delivering all week to various law enforcement and nonprofit organizations throughout the county.
"We've given to police departments, fire departments and about 20 other organizations," he said. "We're going back out next week to deliver more."
And this year, the annual "Be a Hero Blood Drive" is scheduled to take place Nov. 14.
The blood drive has built up over the years to become a huge community event.
"This is our biggest event," Mr. Van Duzer said. "It's all about spreading the awareness of donating blood."
Be a Hero Day will take place all day at Big Apple Pizza, 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce.
For more information, call (772) 528-3467.