Friends, customers flock to Graul's in Hereford to support Boston bombing victim

Working behind the deli together at Graul's in Hereford, Ashlynn Vance and Erika Brannock became fast friends.

"We had a lot of fun here, especially on case night, when we cleaned out the (food display) cases," Vance said on Saturday, smiling as she remembered. "We had a lot of fun those nights."

The two became like sisters, and Brannock is supposed to be Vance's maid of honor on June 8 at Vance's wedding on her family's farm.

Unfortunately, Brannock might not be attending, considering the Cockeysville resident remains in a Boston hospital recovering from surgery following the Boston Marathon bombing last month. Brannock lost the lower portion of her left leg in the explosion.

Her sister, Nicole Gross, suffered broken legs in the blast.

Vance said that she and Brannock are using technology to keep in touch.

"We've planned for if she is there and if she isn't," Vance said. "Last Saturday was my wedding shower and I was showing her all my presents (on Internet video site Skype)."

Many of Graul's 70 employees have worked at the store for over 20 years, according to Ken Bullen, store manager, and many of them have fond memories of Brannock, who worked in the deli for over six years.

"She has maintained friends in the store," Bullen said, after Brannock left to become a preschool teacher at Trinity Episcopal Children's Center in Towson. "She was in (the store) once a month at least and was here the weekend before the Boston Marathon."

After learning of the extent of Brannock's injuries, the store organized a fundraiser for Brannock on Saturday that offered hot dogs, Roseda steak burgers and bison burgers for sale as well as entertainment and a live broadcast from WBAL radio 1090 AM. All food proceeds were donated to Brannock and 10 percent of all the store's sales on Saturday were also donated.

"We're here for Erika and her family to help her as much as we can, " said Trish Dickerson, senior account manager for Boar's Head meats as she set up her hot dog stand. "Graul's is such a great account for us and a great store. We donated a 1,000 hot dogs."

Old Line Custom Meat Company donated 1,000 Roseda steak burgers, and Mike Brannon, vice president, was hoping they would all go.

"On a personal level, my heart goes out to this young lady," Brannon said. "We're happy to help out."

A faithful customer at Graul's for 23 years, Marcia Allison remembers seeing Brannock working in the deli. While she didn't know her personally, Allison knew her, she said, and was hoping Saturday's fundraiser would help.

"Everybody knows her and I think it [the fundraiser] will be very successful," Allison said. "I think this is great."

Julie Hildebrand knew where she had to stop on her way home from Lancaster, Pa. on Saturday morning. After hearing about the fundraiser, Vance found herself stopping for a few things and walking around before heading home to Millersville.

"I think it is great to support the cause," said Hildebrand, who shops at the Graul's market in Annapolis. "Graul's is a big supporter of our local fair."

John McInerney was proud to be taking part as well.

"The market (Graul's) is not a national brand or chain," McInerney said. "It's neat it's stepping up and taking care of someone they know."

"She is a very strong person," Vance said, of Brannock. "She's broken down only once. She's remarkable. She keeps saying something good will come out of this."

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