HomeAchievementsFrom Fast Food to Fast Action

From Fast Food to Fast Action

In the bustling town of Johnston, R.I., where the opening of a new Raising Cane’s restaurant had already become the talk of the town, an act of bravery and quick thinking would become the biggest headline.

Chaia Elwell, ’28, a senior at Chariho High School who has committed to attend Southern this fall, had never imagined that a routine visit to the newly opened fast-food chain with her friends would turn into a life-altering event.


@Gabrielle Caracciolo spoke to a Chariho High School student who helped a choking man at Raising Cane’s. #charihohighschool #raisingcanes #choking #hero #lifesaving #chicken #chickenfingers #rhodeisland #johnston #emt #nursing #fyp

♬ original sound – NBC 10

As Elwell and her friends waited for their order, a sudden commotion caught her attention. A diner, later identified as Anthony Repucci, was in distress, choking on his food. While others stood by, uncertain and paralyzed by the unfolding drama, Elwell’s instincts took over.

Trained as a senior health career student and currently taking an EMT class, she recognized the signs of choking and knew she had to act fast.

“My fight-or-flight kind of kicked in,” Elwell recalled. With a composed demeanor, she approached Repucci, asked for his permission, and then skillfully administered the Heimlich maneuver.


Chaia Elwell, a student that saved a choking man at a @Raising Cane’s in Johnston, was gifted a scholarship for her heroic act. #raisingcanes #hero #scholarship #student #chickenfingers #lifesaver #nursingprogram #reunion #fyp #fastfood #choking

♬ original sound – NBC 10

After a few tense moments and a couple of decisive thrusts, the obstruction was dislodged, and Repucci could breathe again. The relief was palpable as color returned to his face, and the bystanders erupted into a mix of applause and sighs of relief.

This incident, while harrowing, only reinforced Elwell’s desire to pursue a career in nursing later in the fall at Southern. Her actions that day not only saved a life but also crystallized her resolve to dedicate herself to helping others.

“I’ve been questioning all year like I wonder if I can do this when it becomes a real situation and…actually like I really believe that I could do it now,” Elwell shared.

In addition to studying nursing, Elswell is excited to join the women’s lacrosse team this fall.

The community and Raising Cane’s recognized her heroism and determination. In a heartwarming gesture, Elwell was awarded a $10,000 scholarship to aid in her nursing studies at Southern Connecticut State University.

Raising Cane’s thanked Elwell by gifting her a $10,000 scholarship to Southern Connecticut State University.

Repucci was present at the ceremony to award her the scholarship, expressing his profound gratitude.

“Honestly if she wasn’t there I don’t know what would have happened,” he said, echoing the sentiment of all who witnessed Elwell’s actions.


‘High school senior gets scholarship after saving man at Raising Cane’s,’ Feb. 1, 2024 ABC 6

‘Chariho High School Student Saves Choking Man At Newly Opened Raising Cane’s’, Jan. 19, 2024 NBC 10 News


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