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Cooking up a special birthday
by Paul Gonzales
Jul 28, 2012 | 1447 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paul Gonzales photo
Enrique Llanas tears open one of the many gifts given to him by Brenda Hughes and the Dog & Bee pub.
Paul Gonzales photo Enrique Llanas tears open one of the many gifts given to him by Brenda Hughes and the Dog & Bee pub.
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Paul Gonzales photo
Curtis Windom III, left, held Enrique Llanas an eighth birthday party at the Dog & Bee Pub complete with food, gifts and plenty of cake.
Paul Gonzales photo Curtis Windom III, left, held Enrique Llanas an eighth birthday party at the Dog & Bee Pub complete with food, gifts and plenty of cake.
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BEEVILLE — One afternoon at the Dog & Bee pub, Curtis Windom III, the executive chef, was walking through the restaurant and came across a group of people eating with a couple of children.

Little did he know that the group was from the Ronald McDonald House and they had stopped in for some lunch.

“I love kids, so I went over and was joking with the little boy and I called him ‘pelon’ (a Spanish word for bald),” Windom recalled.

The little boy was 7-year-old Enrique Llanas, and he was seeking treatment for leukemia, which caused his hair to fall out. His family was staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Corpus Christi.

“When I said it, the lady from the Ronald McDonald House looked at me like “Uh-oh”, so I knew I messed up,” Windom said.

“It was all in good fun, because I’m bald-headed, and he was bald-headed, so I was just messing with him when I called him ‘pelon’.”

But Llanas, who’s first language is Spanish, smiled and shrugged it off.

Windom added, “I had to make it up to him. I went and got him and his sister, Roxanne, sundaes.

“I started talking to him and asked him how old he was, and he said he was going to be eight next Saturday, and I said, ‘Really?’

“I told him, ‘Well, I have a really good owner, Mrs. Brenda Hughes, so maybe we can have a birthday party for you.’”

Windom exchanged contact information with the family and Ronald McDonald House directors and set off on his quest to make this birthday party happen.

“I asked Brenda the next day,” Windom recalled. “She said, ‘Sure go ahead and do it’, so we took off.”

And one week later, Llanas had his birthday party.

The party was set up in the back of the restaurant, with tables in the center of the room, decorated with brightly colored balloons and streamers.

At the end of the room sat a banquet of chili dogs, hamburgers with all the fixings, chips and salsa, ice cream and a Hot Wheels-theme cake made by Beeville baker Gina Dancer.

Windom ran in and out of the room constantly, making sure everything was perfect, and enlisted the help of many of his staff to make sure the guests had drinks and were comfortable.

A table sat to the right overflowing with gifts of all shapes and sizes bought by Hughes, Windom and others.

Windom said, “We bought him some toys and some educational books to read.

“He was really into Hot Wheels, airplanes and helicopters, so we got him a remote-controlled car and helicopter and just made his day.”

And as Llanas ripped through the wrapping paper of each present, his eyes lighting up and smile growing larger with each gift, he would turn and excitedly yell and show his mother what he had just opened.

And for the rest of the afternoon, the smile never left his face.

As an added bonus, the restaurant handed over an enormous stuffed dog – almost the size of Llanas himself – that the pub had made as a prototype for future mascot plush toys.

Windom laughed, “I saw the giant dog that Brenda had with her, and she said that would it would be perfect for Enrique to have at his birthday party.

“It was his present that he didn’t know anything about.”

Windom has a history with helping others. When he lived in Minnesota, he did a lot of foundation dinners for the cystic fibrosis foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

But his decision to have this party came easily to him.

“It was something I had to do,” Windom said. “When he came in and they said Ronald McDonald House and said he had leukemia, it was a no-brainer.

“I thought, let’s give Enrique something to look forward to. He may not be here tomorrow, but we may not be here tomorrow either. So it’s about being thankful for what we do have.”

And after the cake was devoured and the birthday wishes were made, Llanas filled his car with his gifts and headed to Corpus Christi, where he and his family reside.

“I called him yesterday as a matter of fact,” Windom said. “He was happy. He started playing with his toys as soon as he got home. He loved it.”

Mark Avelar, an executive director at the Corpus Christi Ronald McDonald House who attended the party, said, “We all admire Enrique so much. He’s such a fine, compassionate young man.

“We are thankful for everything. It’s the best birthday he’s had yet.”

Windom reflected, “I have little ones also, so that touched me. My son just turned seven, so he’s one year younger than Enrique. And he’s healthy, but little Enrique isn’t.

“That could be my son right there, so let’s do something nice for the little guy, and we did.

“We all pulled it off.”

Paul Gonzales is the entertainment writer at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 116, or at thescene@mySouTex.com.
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