With big hearts, Hudson boys honor 'Big Papa'
HUDSON - Driving home from a trip to Rhode Island to visit family members, 9-year-old Brandon Blanchette told his mother he wanted to open a hot cocoa stand.
Brandon and his younger brother Tyler had just spent the weekend visiting their great grandfather, Donald Hindle Sr., who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and both boys made a decision that day to something extra special for their "Big Papa."
"How could I say no to that?" said the boys' mother, Melissa Hindle-Blanchette.
That was five years ago, and both boys have grown quite a bit since then. But they haven't forgotten their February tradition of warming hands and hearts for a cause that's dear to them.
Big Papa's Hot Cocoa Stand will be open for business again this year on Feb. 10, with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.
As they've done since the beginning, Brandon, now 15, and Tyler, now 10, will brace for the winter chill in front of their Ferry Street home, waving handmade signs and encouraging passers-by to purchase a $1 cup of cocoa.
Hindle-Blanchette said her grandfather, who died in July, was a kind, hardworking man who operated a rubbish business in Rhode Island. The elder Hindle worked almost every day until the age of 81, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
"He was an amazing man who got up very early each day," Hindle-Blanchette said.
Though the boys have few memories of their great-grandpa, they've made it their mission to honor his memory. On Valentine's Day in 2009, they opened their first cocoa stand, with their father, Roger Blanchette, helping them raise a small tent at the foot of their driveway.
"We froze outside. There was about two feet of snow on the ground," said Tyler, a fifth-grader at H.O. Smith Elementary School.
Hindle-Blanchette's co-workers at Dell in Nashua soon jumped on board, and over the past several years, the family and their friends have raised over $10,000 for the Alzheimer's Association.
Dell company officials match the proceeds made from the cocoa stand each year.
While the Blanchette family also participates in the annual Memory Walks, the winter cocoa stand remains their biggest fundraiser.
"We just stock up on cocoa and go with it," Hindle-Blanchette said.
Over the years, the boys have seen many a repeat customer.
"We have a lot of people drive by and when they see us out there, they'll stop and give a donation," said Brandon, a sophomore at Alvirne High School.
Tyler said he's especially excited when his friends from the Hudson Police Department stop in for a cup or two to bring back to the station.
And both boys were excitedly getting the word out via Twitter this week: They were thrilled to discover that Gov. Maggie Hassan had been following their posts.
"Tyler and Brandon are amazing with their earnestness and commitment," said Susan Antkowiak, vice president of regional offices for the Alzheimer's Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. "We are thrilled not only with the significant amount of money they have raised, but the fact that they are increasing public awareness for this most challenging disease."
Big Papa's Hot Cocoa Stand will be open for business on Saturday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 62 Ferry Street in Hudson. Homemade goodies and fresh, hot cocoa will be available for sale, and donations to the Alzheimer's Association will be gladly accepted.
For more information, visit the "Big Papa's Hot Cocoa Stand for Alzheimer's" Facebook page.