Firehouse Subs CEO makes huge donation to local rescue crews after heart attack

Don Fox and his wife were hiking Grandfather Mountain last year when he suffered a heart attack.
Don Fox and his wife were hiking Grandfather Mountain last year when he suffered a heart attack. Rescue crews responded saving his life.
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 4:45 PM EDT
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LINVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - It was a way to say thank you from a victim who nearly didn’t make it.

Don Fox and his wife were hiking Grandfather Mountain last year when he suffered a heart attack. Rescue crews responded saving his life.

What they didn’t know at the time was Fox is the CEO of Firehouse Subs and was ready to give a large donation to the department to show his appreciation and to help others in the same situation.

“The flood of emotions I was going through at the time come back,” Fox said.

It was hard at points for Don Fox to say what he was feeling. Fighting back tears and a quivering voice. Looking eye-to-eye at the people responsible for saving his life.

“If I’d been on my own forget it,” he said to the crowd at the Linville Fire Department.

He and his wife had picked up a new hobby of mountain hiking and were trying out the Linville area for the first time last year. But that’s when Fox’s heart gave out.

“Wham, stopped in my tracks,” he recounted.

Fox’s wife doubled back on the trail and tried to call for help, but there was no cell service. She said she was forced to leave him and go for help, not knowing if he’d still be alive when she got back.

“I said I have to leave you, to go down the mountain to get a cell phone signal,” she said.

Calls were made and emergency crews responded. It took rescuers nearly two hours to get Fox down and evacuated for medical treatment. At the time, firefighters didn’t know who he was, but a joke during the rescue about a charitable foundation gave them an inkling.

“Have you ever heard about the Firehouse Subs charitable foundation? He said ‘yeah, they turned us down three times.’ I said today is your lucky day!” Fox said joking before the crowd.

As the CEO of Firehouse Subs, Fox made a nearly $50,000 donation toward the Linville Fire Department. That money was quickly earmarked to go toward the latest life-saving equipment for people having heart attacks.

“That piece of equipment will be a game changer for us in the future, it really will,” firefighter Stone Stiney said.

And when seconds are ticking off the clock, an advantage, and any piece of life-saving equipment could be a gamechanger.

“Without definitive care those outcomes you know, sometimes they happen,” mountain rescuer J.C. Steinbaugh said.

The day of Fox’s heart attack something really amazing happened. Rescue crews here were having a training session with several other cities at the same time the call went out, sending many more emergency responders to the scene than normal.

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