Brewer kids give away hot cocoa, raise $2,500 for child with cystic fibrosis

Posted Jan. 01, 2011, at 6:15 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 05, 2011, at 7:07 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A price tag of $3.12 seems a bit steep for a cup of hot cocoa at a roadside stand unless it’s for a good cause.

That is what it would have cost per cup to raise $2,500 if a family had sold instead of given away 800 cups of cocoa in exchange for donations to help out a toddler with cystic fibrosis.

On Friday, Abby Sargent, 7, her sister Jessica Sargent, 9, both of Brewer, stepsister Torri Openshaw, 8, of Hancock and their cousins, Jaklyn Cyr, 11, of Holden and Katelyn Bowker, 9, of Brewer presented a giant check for $2,500 to Rebecca Blanchard, 34, of Mount Desert and her 2-year-old son, Brock Blanchard.

The money was to be split evenly between the Blanchard family and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Mike Openshaw, the family patriarch, said Friday afternoon when the two families got together at a Bangor restaurant.

The Sargent girls live on Bowdoin Drive off North Main Street in Brewer, where residents take their outside holiday decorating seriously. Those decorations attract a lot of people who drive by in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The girls decided that the best way to raise money to help the Mount Desert Island family and the foundation that helps people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and their families was to offer hot cocoa, not for a fee but for donations.

The girls more than doubled their goal of raising $1,000, Mike Openshaw said Friday.

“They raised about half of this in the last few days before Christmas after the stand got some media attention,” he said. “They took in $614 just on Christmas Eve.”

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited life-threatening disease involving a genetic mutation that disrupts the cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator protein, resulting in poorly hydrated, thickened mucous secretions in the lungs, according to the website

Blanchard said Brock’s lungs fill up with an “oatmealy mucus” that he needs help to expel. Drugs help but what works best is a high-frequency chest wall oscillation, or vibrating vest, that helps him cough. The vest is connected to a small air compressor that delivers bursts of air to inflate and deflate the vest about 25 times a second.

The one-time cost of a series of vibrating vests the boy can use as he grows is $16,000, which their insurance does not cover, she said. As an infant, Blanchard and the boy’s father, Chad Blanchard, had to pound on his back to help him expel the mucus.

“As a 2-year-old, he won’t sit still for 20 minutes so I can do that,” she said. “He also takes 25 pills a day, and just one medication runs about $1,500 a month.

“We were speechless to know these girls were doing this hot chocolate stand on behalf of [Brock],” Blanchard added. “They taught us the true spirit of Christmas.”

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