A 6-year-old boy battling cancer hosted a hot cocoa stand — Matthew’s Miraculous Hot Cocoa — to raise money for other children with cancer and earned $6,500 in two hours.
“It was overwhelming to say the least. We had no idea what to expect,” mom Linda McDonnell told TODAY via email. “Seeing that many people come out to support Matthew and his cause — raising awareness and money for pediatric cancer research — was a tangible reminder of God’s love in this world.”
For two years, Matthew McDonnell has been battling a stage IV Wilms tumor, a pediatric kidney tumor. He has undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and trial immunotherapy treatments.
Despite this intense regimen, Matthew often puts others before himself. If he’s at the hospital and hears someone crying he says “Mommy, I feel bad for them. I will pray for them.”
That’s why when Matthew told McDonnell that he wanted to do something to help children with cancer she wasn’t surprised. One day as the two were driving home from the grocery store, Matthew shared his latest plan.
“Mommy, I would like to hold a hot cocoa stand to raise money for the children with cancer,” he said.
While this generosity seems typical of Matthew, McDonnell still felt moved.
“The idea just melted my heart,” McDonnell said. “Matthew has a special love for other children.”
McDonnell and her husband, Patrick, 48, want to nurture their son's compassionate nature so they knew they had to make Matthew’s fundraiser happen.
Patrick built a cocoa stand, while McDonnell received permission from South Abington Township near Scranton, Penn., to use a local park on December 10 — the only Saturday Matthew had free during his treatment schedule. Friends, family, and local businesses donated cookies, donuts, and paper goods and the McDonnells supplied huge batches of hot cocoa.
A long line snaked from the pavilion as more than 500 people bought hot chocolate from Matthew.
“Watching a community come together for such a great cause is truly inspirational,” McDonnell said. “The line did not stop for the entire two-hour event. It was an amazing sight to witness.”
People paid what they thought was fair and Matthew hustled behind the stand for an hour and a half before he tired and took a break to warm up in a car. He considered going home, but when he spotted all his supporters, he felt obligated to stay.
“Needless to say, he remained the entire two hours (not that anyone would have faulted him if he didn’t),” said McDonnell.
Patrick returned home twice to make more cocoa. They served 15 gallons of it. And they raised $6,500, which the family is donating to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a nonprofit that supports pediatric cancer research.
At the end of December, Matthew traveled to several children’s hospitals to learn about possible treatments, which will likely include surgery. The family remains hopeful that a treatment will soon end Matthew’s battle with cancer.
“Matthew occasionally gets discouraged,” said McDonnell. “He truly takes everything in stride. He completely trusts that God will heal him at just the right time!”
Matthew has already begun considering new ways to raise more money. He’s thinking about selling t-shirts. McDonnell worries it might be harder to do this than a hot cocoa stand. Though, she knows they will find a way to pull off this new fundraiser.
“I am learning not to underestimate our son’s abilities to make things happen,” she said.
People who want to donate to Matthew's ongoing care can do so here.