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Milkshake travels almost 400 miles to grant last wish of woman with cancer

Tommy's Restaurant in Cleveland Heights fulfilled the wish of an Ohio native in a Virginia hospice center to have one last mocha milkshake.
/ Source: TODAY

When Tommy Fello, owner of the beloved Cleveland Heights, Ohio, eatery Tommy's Restaurant, checked his email this morning, he had thank-you messages from strangers all over the world — including Canada, Germany, Scotland, the Netherlands and Turkey.

They'd all seen a Facebook post from Sam Klein sharing the story of how Fello had shipped a mocha milkshake from Ohio to Virginia for Emily Pomeranz, a longtime Tommy's customer who was in hospice care in Arlington.

Pomeranz passed away last week, but the story of how Fello granted Pomeranz's wish to "have one more Tommy’s mocha milkshake" has clearly made an impact: The post has been shared by more than 2,000 people, with more than 600 comments and thousands more reacting to it.

In the post, Pomeranz is pictured holding the Tommy's milkshake, beaming. "My heart just about pounded out of my body I was so happy when I saw the picture," Fello — who opened Tommy's as a tiny soda shop in 1972 and is still involved in day-to-day operations at its current, larger location — told TODAY Food. The "Milkshake Mission Impossible," as Fello called it, began when Klein visited Pomeranz in hospice and asked if she needed anything.

"'A Cleveland Indians hat,' was her first response," Klein related on Facebook. "So, I brought her one the next day. And, she said with a smile, I wish I could have one more Tommy’s mocha milkshake." Klein emailed Tommy's and got a call from Fello a few days later, saying, “Yes. We will figure out a way to do this.”

Fello did indeed figure out a way: He froze the shake solid, packed it in dry ice from his ice cream supplier, and shipped it via UPS. Despite one small snafu (the delivery truck had just left when Fello arrived at UPS, so he had to wait several hours for the next one), the shake made it to Pomeranz, who grew up in Cleveland Heights and went to Tommy's regularly, within a few hours of Fello shipping it.

Tommy's shakes have been raved about by many, but what makes them so special?

Fello says the secret to his shakes is using high quality ingredients, including local ice cream from Pierre's, local milk from Hartzler Family Dairy and local fruit in the fruit-based shakes, when available. For the mocha shake, he uses Pierre's coffee ice cream and Hershey's chocolate syrup, which he says may not be the cheapest recipe, but it's the best.

In the case of the milkshake shipped to Pomeranz, Fello said he thinks the shake, "brought her back to somewhere warm and comforting with her family and friends." The mocha milkshake happens to be one of the restaurant owner's favorite comfort foods, too.

Fello says he was happy for this opportunity to bring some comfort to Pomeranz and her family, remarking that the adage it's better to give, than to receive is a huge understatement. He's grateful that Klein reached out to him, noting how often people say, "I wish there was something I could do." This time, he says, "I had my chance to do something."

Pomeranz's friend is also grateful and says the gesture was an incredible moment.

"Tommy's act of kindness meant the world to Emily," Klein told TODAY. "The restaurant holds a special place in the hearts of anyone from Cleveland Heights. And, the fact that they went out of their way for this surprise thrilled Emily. And for me, it is a reminder that goodhearted people are out there and they want to do what's right and to make people smile. I am ecstatic that this little wish has made people feel good. And, maybe they will go out and do something nice for a stranger, too."

Fello doesn't seem to be tiring of the ongoing calls and in-person visits (and even a rumored "milkshake flashmob" being organized) from people who say the gesture has bolstered their confidence in humankind. "I am just so amazed at the outpouring of love," he says.