Nick Lovato’s life left an impression on the staff at Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ in Temecula where he worked as a cook for more than a year.
So to honor his memory, a fundraiser was held at the popular restaurant Thursday.
Turns out, Lovato had a lot of friends: During the event, $1,000 dollars were raised for his family, said Sweet Lumpy’s owner Craig Puma. And thanks to one of Lovato's best friends who helped spread the word, nearly 100 people showed up to remember him, added the restaurant’s chef Mariya Crisler.
“He was a good kid with a great attitude,” Crisler continued.
Lovato was just 23 when he was killed Jan. 22 after a boulder fell on him as he hiked with friends near the Ecological Preserve in Temecula.
Crisler said the community outpouring for Thursday’s event was amazing. Less than 48 hours prior, she sent emails to local businesses, asking if they could donate prizes for a raffle, the proceeds of which would go to the Lovato family to help cover funeral expenses.
“We had more than 30 prizes from businesses in the community,” she said.
Additionally, Puma said he donated 20 percent of all restaurant sales to the Lovatos.
“I want to thank everyone who contributed and showed up,” he said.
Crisler explained that although Thursday’s mood was punctuated by some tears -- as friends and family recalled the Menifee resident’s life -- there were also smiles because that’s what Lovato represented.
“He always had a big smile,” she said.
Local band Indica Roots, whose members were Lovato’s friends, turned out at Sweet Lumpy’s to perform in his honor Thursday, Crisler said. Dozens of young men driving lifted 4x4 trucks were at the event as well.
“They were all his friends; he loved those trucks,” Crisler said.
When asked if there was a personal memory she could share with the public about Lovato, she was adamant.
Days before he died, Lovato was working in the Sweet Lumpy’s kitchen, Crisler explained. He told the staff that even if he died tomorrow, life was good.
“I am so happy,” Crisler recalled Lovato saying at that moment.
“Even if he had a bad day, I would never know," she continued. "He was always positive.”
According to Crisler, an online fundraising effort continues for the Lovato family at www.youcaring.com.