Four years after 16-year-old Carlos Turner succumbed to cystic fibrosis, his dying wish -- to commercially sell the homemade barbecue sauce he created and to help the hospital that became his second home -- has come true.
The first batch of Carlos’ Homestyle Bar-B-Que Sauce hit the shelves of 27 Walmarts in Southern Indiana and Kentucky over Labor Day weekend. All the proceeds will go to fund art therapy and volunteer services at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky.
"They helped him grow -- they gave him the courage, the strength and faith to continue to continue on. Kosair is like family to us," Consuela Turner, Carlos' mother, told WDRB. "They're not just people who work there. They're family."
Carlos was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis -- a genetic respiratory disease that affects the body's ability to breathe and has no cure. Although many patients now live into their 30s, 40s and beyond, Carlos's condition deteriorated rapidly as he reached his teens. He would spend most of his short life in and out of the hospital.
Elizabeth Sanders Martin, a therapist at Kosair who first met Carlos when he was a toddler, told WDRB he was "absolutely adorable -- big brown eyes, gorgeous long eyelashes, dark hair, cute as a button at two years of age, always smiling, always happy."
She told the Courier-Journal: “You see them when they turn 2, when they turn 5 and when they turn 10. How could you not form a connection?”
Carlos felt that bond as well, and decided to combine his passion for cooking with the gratitude he felt for the staff at Kosair.
While he loved barbecues, they often made him sick. At 15, while watching a cooking show, he realized why: Worcestershire sauce, the main ingredient in BBQ sauce, contains anchovies. Carlos was allergic to fish. So he devised a sauce using honey, brown sugar, liquid smoke and other ingredients and stored the handwritten recipe in a locked box.
"He wanted it to be kind of a secret recipe just like Colonel Sanders," his mother said.
As his health began to deteriorate, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Carlos a last request. He chose a shopping trip to Walmart to buy cookware and ingredients with which to make his secret sauce.
But the point of that trip wasn't just to cook his secret sauce one last time. He wanted it to be marketed, bottled and sold and for the money to come back to the hospital.
Carlos didn't live to see that happen. He died on Aug. 4, 2008 -- the same day he was to have started his junior year in high school.
But Carlos' family, along with the local community in Louisville and his hometown of Greensburg, Ky., refused to let his dream fade.
"You don't get many opportunities in business to do something for the community, to do something that's, you know, that's more than making money," Tim Bloemer, of Bloemer Food Sales, told WDRB. "It's about doing something to help somebody out."
That's what Carlos had in mind, said his mother.
“We don’t want anything out of this,” Consuela Turner told the Courier-Journal. “This is what Carlos wanted. He always wanted to give back to Kosair.”