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Cocoa for a Cause: Three young brothers from Washington bring tradition to Idaho

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REXBURG — A trio of brothers have taken an out-of-state tradition and brought it to Idaho in hopes of helping those in need.

Cocoa for a Cause was started six years ago in Snohomish, Washington as a philanthropic effort by now 13-year-old Benjamin Mahelona.

“He had started a lemonade business that year and when winter hit, we were talking about things we could do and what kind of impact we could make as a family. We had such an incredible experience with the lemonade stand, he said, ‘Well what if we do hot chocolate?’” said Twyla Mahelona, Benjamin’s mother.

The idea was to create a business that could raise money for Benjamin to donate to a good cause.

“I’m doing Cocoa for a Cause mainly because I wanted to help people. When I was eight, I watched videos of people donating and I wanted to be like them,” Benjamin told on Tuesday.

As the home business continued, he brought in his two brothers to help. Caleb, 9, and Desmond, 5 help alongside Benjamin, and his mother. They sell hot chocolate, brownies, cookies, muffins and other baked goods. The brothers do it once a year and donate the money to a cause they agree on after doing research.

This year, they are donating to refugees through the International Rescue Committee and they are trying to raise $538.

“They added a list together of all the things that you can get the refugees between blankets, toolkits, emergency food, so they added up all those numbers for all the items,” Twyla said.

In the past, the boys have raised money for people in Honduras to get medical supplies, and have helped with personal causes like raising money for hearing aids for a girl in their community.

“It makes me happy that I am making a difference in people’s lives and that I changed it, providing them with the money they need to buy the materials they don’t have,” Benjamin said.

This year’s Cocoa for a Cause will be the first event held outside of Washington. The family moved to Rexburg about three months ago, and they hope things work out as well as they did in Snohomish.

“Over the last several years, it’s just become not just our tradition but a community tradition. It’s just really neat. We weren’t sure if we were going to do it here in Rexburg and the boys were all like, ‘Nope gotta do it!’ So we are excited to start it here,” Twyla said.

Twyla is proud of her boys and how excited they get when they help others.

“For us personally, there’s no better way to genuinely feel the Christmas spirit and to keep things centered on giving and to keep their focus on other people who have needs and global needs and local needs and teaching the boys about that,” she said. “I think it’s been incredible to teach them what kind of difference they can make in their community as they reach out and link people together.”

cocoa for a cause
Benjamin when he was 8-years-old participating in Cocoa for a Cause | Courtesy Twyla Mahelona

Cocoa for a Cause is happening Tuesday on Angela Drive and 5th Street in Rexburg by the Madison County Fairgrounds from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s super exciting. They all went to school today (Tuesday) with invitations in their backpacks. My 9-year-old snuck (food) samples in his backpack so he could convince people to come. The excitement before and after lasts for quite some time,” she said.

Twyla told they plan to have another Cocoa for a Cause event next year.

Benjamin is hoping for a great turnout and to raise more money than his goal of $538.

“I’m trying to make a difference and I do my best when the community helps support it because, without the community, none of this would be possible,” said Benjamin.