Waitress in viral video uses fame to raise funds for cats

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This is a screen shot of the video posted on Reddit.com.

A clip from a Savannah restaurant's security video has gone viral, in which a male customer walked past a female server and grabbed her backside.

The incident happened June 30, when 21-year-old Emelia Holden was in the last hour of her night shift at Vinnie Van Go-Go's in City Market.

She was placing another customer's order at a work station, with her back to the tables on the patio, when Ryan Cherwinski, 31, walked past her and grabbed her buttock.

She wasn't having it, and let him know it. The server snapped into action, ran after the man, grabbed the back of his shirt and flung him to the floor.

Police were called and Cherwinski, of Palm Bay, Fla., who had been dining at the restaurant with his partner and their two children, was arrested and charged with sexual battery.

The video clip was posted on Reddit.com in mid-July, and quickly went viral.

Holden began hearing from people around the country, including major news outlets such as the New York Times and People, and even from the U.K.

Because of all the attention, Holden decided to use that platform to benefit a favorite cause: homeless cats.

Holden set up a GoFundMe page called Cash for Cats. On the page, she wrote: "Recently a video of me went viral and I've been getting a lot of attention for it. I'd like to take this opportunity to give back to something that means a great deal to me, CATS!"

The beneficiary is Palmetto Animal League (PAL), based in Okatie and serving Jasper and Beaufort counties.

Amy Campanini, president of PAL, was thrilled to learn of the fundraiser, after it had been set up. She said the no-kill shelter had helped Holden a while ago, finding homes for homeless kittens.

"She is a compassionate, animal-loving person with a soft spot for cats, and we were happy to support her efforts to help these kittens find loving homes," Campanini said of Holden. "PAL was able to give Emelia peace of mind when she needed it, and now she's paying it forward by starting a GoFundMe page for future PAL kitties in need!"

At press time, Holden's Cash for Cats fundraiser had collected nearly $14,500 of her $20,000 goal. What does that mean for PAL?

"As a private, non-profit organization, PAL receives no government funding, so this kind of unexpected windfall means we can rescue far more animals this year than we ever dreamed," Campanini said.

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