“The wheels started turning, we started talking to people, and we started realizing that the American Cancer Society needed help with cancer treatment for displaced Ukrainians,” said Elise Letavish. “Battling cancer myself, I knew how intense it could be to skip treatment. It’s life threatening.”
The pandemic has been hard enough for Elise Letavish and her husband, Saeed Ashrafzadeh, who together own Ashling Kitchen and Bar in Crofton, Maryland.
They had opened their restaurant less than a year before COVID-19 shut everything down, providing easy access to a commercial kitchen that helps their catering business, which does a lot of business with DC-area music venues. .
With their business in mortal danger, Letavish was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, which meant she was also at risk of dying.
But now, a year and a half later, things are looking up for the Crofton couple, both in terms of business and health. Inspired by the support they’ve received during the pandemic and surprised by what’s happening in Ukraine, the two wanted to figure out how they could help.
“The wheels started turning, we started talking to people, and we started realizing that the American Cancer Society needed help with cancer treatment for displaced Ukrainians,” Letavish said. “Fighting cancer myself, I knew how intense it could be to skip treatment. It’s fatal. »
Along with making a direct donation to the American Cancer Society, Ashling is auctioning off a pair of cocktails for $1,000 this weekend. The drink itself is the signature cocktail on their menu, but it also comes with a $100 restaurant gift card and a pair of tickets to Chris Rock later this month at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore.
The auction runs all weekend at the restaurant: “All proceeds will go to charity,” Ashrafzadeh said.
Next week, the restaurant’s “Around the World” food series, which features new dishes from around the world every six weeks, will feature Ukrainian dishes. A portion of these dishes will be donated to the American Cancer Society.
“We decided to somehow incorporate what we do at the Lyric, incorporate what we do at the restaurant, and find a way to give back,” Letavish said.
The fundraising plan was put in place within weeks, after the couple heard about what the American Cancer Society is doing to help the approximately 179,000 Ukrainian cancer patients whose treatment has been interrupted by violence.
“Missing an appointment can really mess up your plan for your next 10-15 appointments,” she added.
“It’s something they weren’t even looking for in terms of financial aid efforts,” Ashrafzadeh said. “The reaction, it was great.”
“They were so excited,” Letavish added. “They’re amazing…they were super excited to shine a light on what they do.”
The hope is not only that the fundraiser will be a success, but that it will be the first of many such collaborations in the future.
“We were lucky to receive an outpouring of help from the community, from our staff, from hospitals, from financial aid organizations,” Ashrafzadeh said. “When we were at our lowest point a few years ago, and Elise was at her obvious lowest point, we are lucky to be able to bounce back. We just think it’s the right thing to do for to be able to give back.
“We did really well here,” Ashrafzadeh said. “When you look at what’s happening outside of where we are, we just have to be ready to all come together, come together and support each other in any way.”