How My Two Sons Saved Christmas

Guest writer Jason Brown is a Skippack business owner

Guest writer Jason Brown is a Skippack business owner

The holiday season began with a storm of activity. By early October, pre-Halloween craziness had taken hold of my family. Our children, two high-energy boys, Sean, age 9, and Keagan, age 6, weren’t the only ones responsible for the commotion. My wife Melissa and I contributed to the madness. We wanted our children to have the perfect costumes, which Melissa insisted on making herself. And nothing ever seemed enough; we needed more candy, more decorations, always more.

“Sean and Keagan’s ideas got bigger: They  wanted to fill the Love Hot Dog trailer with food to donate to Preston & Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger.”

Just a couple days before Halloween, Hurricane Sandy blew into town. We discovered we were powerless; literally powerless for forty hours. But Sean and Keagan reminded us of a way to turn the holiday power back on: put the focus on helping others.

My First Surprise of the Holiday Season

Compared to other people, my family hadn’t experienced serious damage from Hurricane Sandy, but our nerves were frayed. Halloween was a washout. All the planning and preparation seemed for nothing.

But my boys didn’t seem to mind that Halloween was a no-go. In the morning, they helped me deliver hot coffee to our immediate neighbors. Later on, they dressed in their costumes and went to visit all of our neighbors, unconcerned about the amount of candy they received. They were more interested in making sure people they saw everyday were safe and sound. It was as if they had a list of names which they checked off as they accounted for each person they knew.

My wife Melissa with our son Keagan, age 6

My wife Melissa with our son Keagan, age 6

As the days went by, we heard news reports about the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy: people left without homes or food; conditions that at first were incomprehensible to Sean and Keagan.

Questions arose: As happens to many parents, our children had more questions than my wife or I had answers. And, sometimes, it is wiser not to provide answers. In their quest for answers, Sean and Keagan discovered new possibilities.

The boys saw people helping other people to cope with the effects Hurricane Sandy. They began to think about how they could help. Ideas began to form: Simple ideas evolved into fun ideas and then into outlandish ideas.

A Simple Idea gets Bigger and Bigger

With my sons Sean (left) and Keagan, collecting non-perishable food for Preston and Steve's Camp Out for Hunger

With my sons Sean (left) and Keagan, collecting non-perishable food for Preston and Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger

The boys’ project seemed simple enough at first: Collecting food to help those left in need during the holiday season. Fueled by the energy and enthusiasm of childhood, it evolved into something more ambitious.

I own and operate Love Hot Dog Company, a mobile exotic and gourmet food truck in Skippack Village. You’ll find me cooking and serving everything from ordinary hot dogs to crocodile sandwiches in the Farmer’s Market of Skippack lot across from the WaWa. In the summer months, my sons work alongside me, serving fresh lemonade. Their micro-business is called The Lemonade Brothers.

My wife and I try to teach Sean and Keagan not only the value of work but the value of helping others. Since they were infants, we have taken them to the Camp Out for Hunger held by The Preston and Steve Show on 93.3 WMMR to benefit Philabundance, an organization that fights hunger throughout the Delaware Valley. So it was natural they would want to donate to this cause.

But Sean and Keagan’s ideas got bigger: They announced to Melissa and I that they wanted to fill the  Love Hot Dog trailer with food to donate to Preston & Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger.

The announcement made me nervous because it meant we would have to collect a huge amount of food in a short time. Still, I wanted helping people to be a challenge for Sean and Keagan, a challenge big enough to capture their youthful imaginations and boundless energy. I set up a sign asking for donations at the Love Hot Dog Company, placed an empty bin by the sign, sent out a post via the Love Hot Dog Company Facebook page and waited.

Waiting and Worrying

WIth my son Sean, looking forward to Christmas

WIth my son Sean, looking forward to Christmas

At first, donations came in slowly. I was afraid Sean and Keagan wouldn’t reach their goal, and would become discouraged. As their dad, I felt this experience had to be great, so that Sean and Keagan would develop a love for helping others that they could carry into manhood, when doing the right thing would become a much bigger challenge.

It troubles me that, for so many kids, Christmas and Hanukkah have become little more than opportunities to acquire the latest, coolest toys and gadgets being hawked at them. I want the experience of Christmas to be different for my sons; how would they look upon the holiday if their efforts to collect food for the hungry failed? What could a dad do?

That Rock Star Feeling

A dad can talk: I reached out to local websites: Perkiomen Valley Patch, The Souderton Independent and I Love Skippack. Sean and Keagan’s idea captured people’s imagination. My boys were comfortable talking to reporters. Articles appeared online. Posts went out on Facebook. Donations started coming in. My sons had the power to motivate others.

By November 27, the boys had received 430 pounds of non-perishable food and $100 cash to give to people in need. Happy and proud, we made the trek to the Camp Out for Hunger, held at the Plymouth Meeting Metroplex, to deliver the food.

The Love Hot Dog Company mobile truck in winter

The Love Hot Dog Company mobile food truck in winter

Sean and Keagan were interviewed by WMMR radio personalities Preston Elliot and Steve Morrison. The boys felt like rock stars. In fact, WMMR rewarded them with tickets to their first rock concert ever. Sean and Keagan donated the tickets to be auctioned off in support of another charity. My sons.

Lessons Learned, Lessons Taught

The lesson Melissa and I want to give our sons is simple: The joy of Christmas lies not in getting the latest, coolest toys. We find it by giving to others. A handmade ornament given with love to a local nursing home is of far, far greater value than the most coveted high-end MP3 player.

But Sean and Keagan taught us something as well. By their own choice, they upped the ante. They wanted to achieve something spectacular: fill the Love Hot Dog Company food truck with food for the hungry.

As adults, we value a realistic outlook: We see the limitations of the people around us and bump up against our own limitations; we adjust expectations, make compromises and rationalize our choices. But children can see endless possibilities. Sean and Keagan have raised the bar for next Christmas; they want to collect one thousand pounds of non-perishable items to donate to Preston and Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger. They believe that there are no limits on our ability to help others. And they are right. Lesson learned. By me.

Snow Flakes

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year from Love Hot Dog Company and I Love Skippack.

 

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