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AHWATUKEE, AZ — Few of us ever develop lasting friendships with our waiters or waitresses.
By design, it’s supported to be a short-term relationship, but that’s what makes 24-year-old Katrina Vasquez very special.
Vasquez is a waitress at Sakana Restaurant in Ahwatukee, but her true passion takes place after she takes off her apron.
She spends much of her time volunteering, traveling the world to spread kindness through her art, including donating her time to an orphanage in Egypt.
“I would go and face paint them and they had never had their face painted before and seeing the happiness just through the art was very inspirational too,” Vasquez said.
Every once in a while, her two worlds collide, like the day she waited on the Friedman family and their son, Dustin.
Dustin is autistic and Vasquez noticed immediately that he is a fan of Pokemon.
In her spare time, she draws and paints hats for children who are going through cancer treatment and have lost their hair, but she decided to also make one for Dustin.
“I made it in March and they didn’t come in for a few months and I was getting a little worried,” Vasquez said.
Dustin loved it.
“She’s just a remarkable, selfless, giving individual and the fact that she goes out of her way to do that is unbelievable,” Dustin’s dad Dennis Friedman said.
The Friedmans decided to give Vasquez a surprise of her own, in the form of a really big tip.
“We’ve been so impressed by what a kind, thoughtful, giving and selfless person you are,” Friedman said. “So we’d like to, with the help of Channel 5, is to go ahead and pay it forward to you.”
It wasn’t until after the exchange that the Friedmans learned the inspiration behind Katrina’s artwork.
“I originally had breast cancer last year and was very fortunate to keep my hair,” Vasquez said. “It was rather shocking and a lot of people kept asking, ‘you’re so young, you’re so young.'”
Vasquez is now trying to save money to be able to go to school and study art therapy, not an easy task while she financially supports her single mother, but she says the $500 will definitely help.
“At the moment, all I want to do is hug them extremely tight and even that won’t show how deep my appreciation is,” Vasquez said.
If you’re inspired by Vasquez, you can catch her at Sakana Restaurant on Elliot in Ahwatukee.
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