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Panera planning fundraisers for disabled girl who was asked to leave restaurant

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The mother of a little girl with special needs was recently asked by an employee to leave a Panera Bread restaurant in Savannah, Ga. after a customer complained about the girl’s orthopedic shoes, and now, according to a report by KLTV on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, that restaurant is planning fundraisers for the girl’s family in an effort to show their sincere apologies.

Two-year-old Emma Duke has an undiagnosed disorder which has caused multiple developmental delays, including an – until recently – inability to walk. As Emma learns to walk, she was given special orthopedic shoes which make a small squeaking noise when she walks correctly – from heel to toes. The squeaking shoes are used as part of an incentive to help her learn to walk properly, but one customer at the restaurant found the squeaking to be disruptive.

The staff later apologized to the girl’s mother for asking them to leave, although she admitted that her trips to Panera were likely over after the ordeal.

However, franchise officials are still extending their apologies and planning at least two fundraisers to help with the family’s ever-growing medical expenses.

“I really feel like it’s something that’s being turned for good. I mean she’s getting the help she needs,” Catherine said, explaining that, even with health insurance the cost of the tests Emma needs is “astronomical,” with a single test costing more than her husband makes in an entire year.

“It’s just a matter of getting the right test for her to be able to diagnose what her condition is, and we haven’t been able to find a diagnosis because we haven’t been able to afford the testing,” she added.

Volunteers are still needed for the fundraising events, which will be held in the Savannah area. Email Emma’s mother at for more information.

In addition, anyone can donate at any time to Emma Duke’s Medical Fund at any Navy Federal Credit Union or mail donations directly to:

Emma Duke

8303 Dale Drive

Savannah, Ga 31406

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