To an observer not paying close attention, the hot cocoa stand in snow-covered Denver might look like nothing more than an entrepreneurial 8-year-old taking advantage of the winter weather to make some cash. But it is more than that.
Tristan Regini is raising money for the Colorado hospital that he says saved his friend’s life.
"My friend, Cade ... he had cancer," Tristan said on a recent chilly day, in between filling cups of hot chocolate for customers. "The Children's Hospital saved his life, so now I am trying to sponsor it even more."
Cade Humphreys was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, but has had no signs of the disease since April, Cade’s family said. Tristan has raised $400 so far for Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, where Cade was treated, and he plans to donate even more.
A bright yellow sign advertises "Hot Coco" in bold letters. Below in smaller print, the sign says the money raised will going to the hospital. But the fundraiser is making a much bigger impact in the hearts of the community than the letters would suggest.
"This gift is particularly meaningful because it demonstrates the youngest members of our community giving to enhance the hospital experience for his peers," said Elizabeth Whitehead, a spokesperson for the hospital, which depends on donations and welcomes gifts "whether large or small."
Tristan's father, Steve, said the fundraiser did not come as a shock. "I wasn't surprised because it's pretty much Tristan, that's just the way he is," he said.
Cade began having headaches in 2013, and a scan found a brain tumor. He underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Cade’s family said. The boy eventually had a bone marrow transplant as well.
While Cade has shown no signs of cancer since April, doctors warn that the type of tumor the boy had is likely to re-grow within 5 years. But his father, Seth, called Tristan’s effort is an inspiration, and said his son’s spirits have been buoyed by the support of Tristan and other friends, who would use Skype and email to keep in touch with his son even when the boy was in the hospital.
Of the hot cocoa stand, Seth said, "That's what buddies do."
Temperatures were in the teens in Denver this week, according to the National Weather Service, and only began warming up to the 30s on Thursday. Demand has been so high that Tristan ran out of hot cocoa on a recent day, and had to switch to hot cider instead.
"I want to just ... save some lives," Tristan said.