HUDSON — When Saturday’s snowstorm hit, Hudson brothers Brandon and Tyler Blanchette knew it was their lucky weekend.
Tyler, 11, said the chilly weather meant his friends and neighbors would be all the more willing to get out of their houses on Sunday and warm up with a piping hot cup of cocoa.
Up bright and early that morning to set up “Big Papa’s Hot Cocoa Stand,” named in honor of their great-grandfather Donald Hindle Sr., the boys continued on with their five-year-mission to raise money for the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
Brandon, now 16 and a junior at Alvirne High School, was nine when he announced to his mother, Melissa Hindle-Blanchette, that he wanted to open his own hot cocoa stand.
The family had just spent the day in Rhode Island visiting their beloved “Big Papa” and on the long ride home, Brandon decided to do what he could to help.
A Valentine’s Day tradition was born. The boys have grown up quite a bit since then, but they haven’t forgotten how good it feels to warm customers’ cups for a cause so close to their hearts, perhaps even more so following Hindle’s death in July 2012.
Hindle-Blanchette said her grandfather was a kind, industrious man who never missed a day of work at his rubbish business before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 81.
“He was just an amazing person,” she said.
Over the years, word has spread and the boys have gotten plenty of customers. Large cups of cocoa with whipped cream and marshmallows are still sold for just $1, as are chocolate chip cookies and other homemade goodies. Cousins and friends paint colorful signs and older relatives direct vehicles into parking spaces along busy Ferry Street.
Fundraising efforts continue throughout the year, with Tyler and Brandon soliciting donations for the Alzheimer’s Association. On Monday, the boys were still counting out Sunday’s earnings, most of them in dollars and quarters tucked in an oversized mason jar.
Since 2009, however, they’ve raised more than $20,000 toward the cause and earlier this winter, Gov. Maggie Hassan presented the boys with citations honoring their efforts.
Among this year’s cocoa stand customers was Susan Antkowiak, vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter.
Antkowiak said the boys’ efforts are “nothing short of amazing.
“This is so much more than a hot cocoa stand,” she said. “This just goes to show that anyone can do something of impact, whatever your resources or interests.”
For more information, visit the “Big Papa’s Hot Cocoa Stand for Alzheimer’s” page on Facebook.