Greeson: Unlimited breadsticks, salad and kindness at local Olive Garden

Greeson: Unlimited breadsticks, salad and kindness at local Olive Garden

April 17th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Monday morning, there was a slew of bigwigs getting together to have the serious conversation about safety in our schools.

As a parent of two Hamilton County school students, I am encouraged by the effort, interest and engagement evident from events like this one. It's an important topic, one everyone from Sheriff Jim Hammond to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and all of the other elected officials who participated, to national experts and local organizers seems committed to doing something about.

Sadly, a reality is that every preventive measure we can take as a community could be sidestepped by those determined to sacrifice their lives in efforts to kill.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

And it's the variable that no one can calculate when dealing with the nightmares that go as far back as Columbine and have continued to echo through Parkland, Fla., and Marshall County, Ky.

Well, while there may never be a universal answer to stop deadly school violence, here in Chattanooga over the weekend we saw the ultimate cure if we can never find the ultimate solution.

Tragedy struck Marshall County High in Benton, Ky., in late January. Two students were killed from a trigger pulled by a teenager. More than a dozen were injured.

As devastating as it was, nationally it was in a lot of ways overshadowed by the Parkland massacre.

Amid the gun control controversy and protests that followed the Parkland shooting, Marshall County was masked. But that does not diminish the heartbreak or the need for compassion.

That was certainly the case this weekend.

The Marshall County High track team was in Chattanooga for a meet. How they fared in the sprints, the relays or the field events was good.

How we fared as a city and a community thanks to Bill Funderburk and the leadership at the Hamilton Place Olive Garden could not have been better.

Funderburk was in charge when the Marshall County tracksters came to eat. There were a bunch of them.

Two of the track team's members who made the trip last weekend — Christian and Mason Cosner — were injured in the January shooting; Christian was trampled and some ribs were broken, and Mason was shot in the neck.

Funderburk called his bosses to make sure it was A-OK, and after getting an overwhelming thumbs up from the bigwigs, the Hamilton Place Olive Garden comped the $789.26 bill.

"One of our coaches said it best: 'It's not about the money. We could have afforded the meal,'" Marshall County Coach Laken Dirkes Adair told the Paducah Sun. "It's just about the love and support that these kids get all the time. That's what matters."

Philip Wilson, the director of operations at Olive Garden, concurred and said Funderburk did the right thing.

"The manager did an awesome thing, and I am so proud of the team at Hamilton Place," Wilson wrote in an email Monday. "Once we found out the team was from Marshall County, we had to do something to let them know people are still good and that we did not forget what they experienced on that awful day."

Funderburk told the Paducah, Ky., paper: "We just really wanted those kids to have a good time. ... I'm a father of seven, so I'm a big softie when it comes to kids. It could have been any one of our kids."

It absolutely could have been, Bill. And because of that, we need groups and folks like Hammond, Coppinger and the rest of our leaders trying to find the best way to protect our kids.

But Funderburk and the folks at Olive Garden reminded all of us that when the worst happens, we can show that kindness can never be stopped.

Contact Jay Greeson at and 423-757-6343.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315