PHOENIX — The Valley’s ‘Chicago Hot Dog Guy’ was on his way home from a trip to feed the homeless when he was in a horrible crash. Now, the community is working to get him back on his feet.
"What way to win hearts but through their stomach,” says Richie Vaia, owner of Richie V’s Chicago Dog.
Chicago native Richie Vaia is known for spreading love through food. He recently drove to several cities along Route 66 to shine a light on mental health awareness, while feeding those in need. On his way back home to Chandler, he was hit by a semi-truck.
"If my hut wasn't on the back of my truck, to stop that semi, it would be a different story,” says Vaia.
His business was gone in seconds. Cell phone video shows pieces of it spread all over the highway in the Albuquerque area. The cause of the crash is unclear.
"I'm still suffering from a lot of pain emotionally, physically and financially,” says Vaia.
Richie is just thankful to be alive and to have served nearly 1,500 people during his trip. He is making a difference along the way.
"A lot of these people don't have resources so, I gave him my contact info. He wants to get a hot dog cart and start his business. A lot of these people just aren't guided so, maybe I saved one person's life,” says Vaia.
He says other food vendors and customers have since been rallying around him, showing support.
His goal now is to open a brick-and-mortar spot and focus on helping those less fortunate around Phoenix.
"I'll be back stronger than ever. How and when? I don't know but, I'll be back," says Vaia.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Vaia rebound his business from the crash.