It started with a Facebook message. “My son is autistic and obsessed with Dinty Moore® beef stew. It’s the only thing he will eat besides oatmeal.” This is the first line in the message Christine Brown, a consumer engagement specialist at Hormel Foods, received on the Dinty Moore® brand Facebook page on February 2nd. She was immediately moved by the message. Matt Mills, the man who sent it, continued: “I was wondering if you have any care packages or anything like that for such a big fan? He is non-verbal, and ‘Dinty Moore’ were some of his first words. He is seven, and he eats it so much that we call him Danny Moore. Thanks for your time.” Christine knew she had to find a way to give back to “Danny Moore,” whose real name is Danny Young.
Danny is one of five children in a blended family. Their home in the upper peninsula of Michigan is a household of nine: Danny, his mother Jamey, his four siblings, Matt, and both of Matt’s parents. During their chat, Matt told Christine, “I know I will be the one to take care of my parents, so we bought a house big enough for all of us.” A few years ago, Matt and Jamey noticed that Danny, who they already realized was non-verbal, liked to do things in a certain order. They speculated that Danny might have some form of autism, and shortly thereafter, doctors confirmed it.
Coming to Terms with Autism
“It’s always hard for a parent to come to terms with the fact that their child might have a disability,” Matt says. “Some are in denial. But the earlier you come to terms with it and get help for them, the better.”
And thanks to his parents, it has been better for Danny. Matt says Danny is always so happy, his smile and giggle can light up a room, and that no one would ever know how much Danny has been through.
It’s a very vulnerable thing for a dad to reach out and share this about his son and his life, just to say thank you. It just gave me goosebumps.Aly Sill, Brand Manager at Hormel Foods
When Matt reached out to the Dinty Moore® brand, he wasn’t expecting a response; he just wanted to let the company know how much of an impact the product has made on Danny’s life, especially since Danny’s love of stew was pretty unexpected. One night, Danny’s grandfather made stew and Danny seemed to like it. Knowing they couldn’t make stew every day, his grandfather reached for a brand that has been familiar to the Young/Mills family for decades.
“We grew up eating Dinty Moore® beef stew and loved it,” Matt says. “So his papa bought some Dinty Moore® beef stew and the rest is history.” Now, years later, Danny eats it five times a day, and six times if he wants it for breakfast. “It was great knowing there was something so ready-to-eat that Danny loves so much.”
The Urge to Give Back
On the Hormel Foods side, Christine was so charmed by Danny’s love of their stew that her exchange with Matt continued for months. She wanted to learn more about Danny, especially since there was, in fact, a care package for him in the works. She says, “I wanted to see what we could do for Danny.” Between Matt sharing photos of Danny eating Dinty Moore® beef stew at Lake Superior, and Christine keeping Matt posted on Danny’s incoming care package, the conversation reads like one between friends, something Matt was thrilled to notice. Right from the start he shared the Dinty Moore® brand correspondence with his family, and they, too, were excited and impressed with how communicative Christine was. “To have talked with some of the brand’s employees and see how genuinely nice and down-to-earth everyone is. This is pretty cool,” Matt says.
The conversation with Matt got the whole Hormel Foods corporate office talking too. Christine says, “When I shared the story with the team here, they were like, ‘Okay, we need to know more about this.’” She quickly handed the story over to Aly Sill, the Dinty Moore® beef stew brand manager, who Christine says was even more excited to learn about Danny and his love of the brand. She was ready to go above and beyond.
“It’s a very vulnerable thing for a dad to reach out and share this about his son and his life, just to say thank you,” Aly said. “It just gave me goosebumps.” Christine told Matt she’d reached out to the brand manager, who would like to send “a little something” to Danny. This little something quickly became a big something. Danny would be the next Inspired Fan, a rare honor Hormel Foods bestows on its biggest fans, including telling their story on HormelFoods.com. Everyone in the office was thrilled to help out. In fact, Aly says the Hormel Foods brand design team jumped right on it and engaged their third-party agency Smith Design and label printer Smyth to help out. “Smith and Smyth did it all pro bono, and turned it around immediately.” Danny would be receiving a custom-made, surprise shipment from the Dinty Moore® brand (for details, see below).
Danny’s Big Surprise
On June 27 the Dinty Moore® brand delivered Danny’s care package, and it was a whopper. Included were:
- Dinty Moore® branded shirts – Danny got custom-printed “Danny” on the back of his shirt
- Dinty Moore® branded stocking hats, blanket and toy truck
- “Danny Moore” customized beef stew can in a trophy case
- the first shipment of a one-year’s supply of Dinty Moore® stew
It’s All About People
When Christine was asked what she hopes others will glean from this experience, she says she wants people to understand that when they reach out to any of the brand accounts owned by Hormel Foods, there is a real person behind the screen. Aly responded that Dinty Moore® beef stew has been a cross-generational top seller for Hormel Foods, and she wants Danny’s family “to know our gratitude for being such big fans.”
And big fans they are. Matt says Dinty Moore® beef stew has made Danny’s life so much easier, and if he were in a room with everyone who took part in this interaction and surprise (which the family has yet to receive), he’d probably tear up. “It would be a lot of hugs and thank-yous,” he says. “I’m sure Danny would also thank you guys. He probably got sick of all the random things we were trying to get him to eat. Now he has his stew, and nothing else matters.”