The power of a pizza crawl

Saturday June 17, 2017 03:07 pm EDT

No value assignedEmory University undergrads Aidan Williams and Sam Oppenheim will soon be able to cross "host citywide pizza crawl" off their summer bucket list. What started as a conversation around the dinner table has ballooned into a sold-out event, boasting 200 participants, five pizzerias and hundreds of slices to go around.

The crawl was never intended to be this big, the two students say. They created the Facebook event for their friends and switched it to public in hopes of reaching more members of the Emory community. "We thought we'd get maybe 20 or 30 college kids to express interest," Oppenheim says. "We ended up getting over 100 that day and 300 the next. And none of them actually went to Emory.?۝

Before they knew it, nearly 7,000 people had marked themselves "interested." The pair realized they could either cancel the event before it got bigger or accept the challenge and make the crawl a reality. They chose the latter.

Oppenheim and Williams designed a two-mile route through Midtown that will include both big-name chains and independent pizzerias, including Domino's, Mellow Mushroom, Ray's New York Pizza, Princi Italia and DaVinci's. "Once word spread, pizza places started reaching out to us," Oppenheim says. "We were excited to work with small businesses that could really benefit from the event and realize its message of bringing people together.?۝

For the two amateur event planners and full-time college students, carrying the crawl toward fruition has been a serious learning experience. They've had to work with sponsors, create marketing material and make sacrifices for quality over quantity, limiting the number of participants to just 200. When the $30 tickets went on sale, they sold out within an hour. "It felt like we'd just invented Facebook," Williams says with a laugh.

All proceeds will go to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, chosen due to its transparency as an organization and relation to food. "It's a self-contained event," Williams explains. "It starts in the community and ends in the community."

Although the pair will get no money from the event, the stress, nerves and energy hasn't come without benefit. They say planning it has made them feel like a part of the Atlanta community, gain a sense of the city's culture beyond the Emory campus and learn valuable business skills for the future. The pair hopes guests leave with "full stomachs, new friends and and a sense of pride knowing they've donated to a cause larger than themselves.?۝

To those unhappy about not snagging a ticket, Oppenheim and Williams say that although this is their first pizza crawl, if all goes well, it definitely won't be their last.

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