Friday, December 28, 2012
6-year-old “elf” devises hot chocolate business to fund gifts for families in need
He sold cookies, dog treats, and roughly 90 cups of hot chocolate to fund gifts for more children from 14 families.
PLANO Alex Kuechenmeister grinned and giggled as he lugged toys out of his parents' car at the Plano Police Department on Thursday, and he continued eyeing the packages once they were inside.
But these were not his presents. The kindergartener from Betty Haun Elementary School purchased the toys with his own money to give them to less fortunate children.
On a couple of chilly nights outside his home in Deerfield recently, the 6-year-old sold cookies, dog treats, and roughly 90 cups of hot chocolate to neighbors and traveling Christmas-light observers to raise money for the toys.
The toys were distributed Saturday to children in the community through Christmas Cops, an annual program organized by current and former Plano police officers and volunteers that provide food, gifts, clothes, and household goods to Plano families. The project has been a city tradition since 1984.
Harry Manning, a Christmas Cops coordinator and retired Plano police officer, said he anticipated the drive to provide more than 200 families with goods this year. However, a few wish list items had to go unfulfilled because of lack of funds.
Thanks to Alex's initiative, Christmas Cops was able to brighten the faces of children from 14 families, Manning said.
"This goes way beyond a pleasant surprise. Every one of those [toys] is a specific item that we weren't able to provide that we wouldn't have been able to provide if not for him," he said. "He is the ultimate elf; he took care of so many families. The timing couldn't have been better."
Although buying the toys was bittersweet for Alex because he knew he couldn't keep them for himself, he said it was fun collecting the money knowing it was going toward a good cause.
"I wanted to help the kids in need," he said. "It's so fun having customers."
Alex's mother, Pari, said her son came up with the idea from taekwondo class, where they passed an information table for Christmas Cops at the Plano Sports Authority. Learning the mission, Pari said Alex proposed opening a lemonade stand like they had on the television show "Max and Ruby." The beverage of choice was changed to hot chocolate, and it took off from there.
"We had no idea how well we would do," Pari said. "With lemonade stands, you usually have a little jug and you're good to go. We had all of my neighbors cleared out on hot chocolate; we just kept needing more and more. Within two hours, we were sold out. If we could have been there another hour we would have made another 150 bucks."
Alex raised more than $400 that night. His father, Chris, reached out to co-workers, Facebook friends, and others for another $122 the next day.
"It was really overwhelming, to be honest," Pari said. "People just were so blown away by his idea. When I told his teacher and his principal they just rallied around him, it was really cool. It was a tiny idea that just grew and now it's going to be an annual event [for us]. We'll be more prepared this time -- we won't run out."
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