SPANISH FORK — Like the TV ad says, "life comes at you fast," and no one needs to tell that to 18-year-old Shawn Shepherd.

One day he was cooking burgers and chicken wings at the local Winger's diner here next to the freeway, where he works as a cook.

The next he was in the hospital losing his hair and squaring off against leukemia.

The restaurant covered Shawn's shifts. That was something they had to do out of necessity.

The rest of the story is what his co-workers — along with a sizable crowd from the Spanish Fork community — did out of plain old niceness.

Before Shawn's first round of chemotherapy was finished, they organized a Shawn Shepherd Day at the diner. The plan was that all tips collected that day, and night, would help Shawn with his medical expenses.

Assistant manager Chantel Fish and Megan Parmenter spearheaded the effort. They put up posters around town. They passed out fliers. They got the local newspaper to do a story. They filled the restaurant with balloons.

Then half the town didn't show up.

But the other half did.

The diner was packed from opening until way past closing, at which point Chantel and Megan sat down to count out the tips.

On a very good weekend night, the tips will add up to a little over $1,000.

On this night, they added up to $4,265.

And that wasn't the end of it. The women were then more than happy to call the diner's owner, George Hyde, at his home in Lehi.

Hyde had agreed to match what was raised.

"Quite frankly they raised about three times what I thought they were going to," said Hyde. "I was happy they did. I can't say enough about our staff. They take care of each other. They are great."

Chantel and the staff delivered an oversize check in the amount of $8,530 the next morning to Shawn's house, where his mother, Vicki Jacobsen, gasped in disbelief.

"I don't even have words to describe how that made me feel," said Vicki, a single mom who works at Wal-Mart. "To know that the community and those people at that restaurant came together and did that in one day is just remarkable."

While they were there, the Winger's staff also took the time to collect Christmas wishes from Vicki for her two other children, 16-year-old Jordan (who also cooks at Winger's) and 6-year-old Cali. Back at the diner, they hung the various wants and needs on a Christmas tree in the foyer, where anyone who wants to play Santa can pick one off.

When Shawn got back from the hospital, his reaction was like his mom's.

"When I first heard what they'd done I was pretty much speechless," he said. "I wanted to go out and thank everyone in town personally."

He also was eager to tell his own good news: The chemo had knocked his cancer into remission. If it stays that way — and he'll have several more chemo treatments through the spring to try to make sure it does — he won't need the bone marrow transplant doctors originally thought he'd have to have.

In the meantime, Vicki will have help to pay for the expensive prescription drugs Shawn has to take — "I knew prescriptions were high, I didn't know they were that high," she said — and maybe even a little extra. Shawn's uncle, Mike Nielson, owns another restaurant in Spanish Fork — the One Man Band Diner — and he was planning a Shawn Shepherd fund-raiser of his own this weekend.

"Finding out I had leukemia was a pretty big shock, to say the least," said Shawn, who will turn 19 next month. "But it has made me feel good to know there are still a lot of good people in this world. In that way, this has been quite an experience."

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.