Giving to Petit foundation is Southington restaurant's new tradition

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 7:42 pm | Updated: 9:50 am, Wed Nov 21, 2012.

That tradition has changed slightly since the wife and two daughters of family friend Dr. William Petit Jr. were killed in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

After tragedy struck Petit’s family, John St. Pierre decided to help his friend, who also happens to be his former doctor, by donating the proceeds of his anniversary hot dog sale to the Petit Family Foundation.

On Oct. 27, Saint’s, at 1248 Queen St., celebrated its 45th anniversary, and raised $2,500 for the Petit Family Foundation. During the 40th anniversary celebration in 2007, the restaurant raised $3,000.

“I have a really strong relationship with the Petits,” John St. Pierre said. “In 2007, Claudia said, ‘Why we don’t do the hot dog sale for the foundation?’ ”

John St. Pierre said in 2007, the event was more special than any previous hot dog sale because of the fundraiser. Petit showed up at Saint’s that day, as did several television crews, and St. Pierre, who admits he can be very emotional, said “it was a difficult time.”

He said the deaths of Petit’s wife and children “affected us in a way I never realized it could.”

Petit couldn’t attend the hot dog sale this year, but on Tuesday morning, he stopped by Saint’s to pick up the check for his foundation and catch up with the St. Pierres.

“We the foundation, my family, have many good friends after being around here for so long,” Petit said, noting that John St. Pierre’s parents were close with his parents. He was appreciative of the St. Pierres’ efforts to raise money for his foundation.

“It means there’s a lot of love between the two families,” Petit said. “It’s just the kind of people they are. They set a great example for the community.”

This year, John St. Pierre said, the event was upbeat, and he even had former employees come in to help with the rush. The restaurant sold 4,413 hot dogs in one day, the most ever for Saint’s. Three of the St. Pierres’ four children flew in from out of state to also help out.

“It’s nice to see the history and tradition is passed on,” John St. Pierre said.

Petit explained that his foundation has a three-part mission. The first is to aid in the education of young people, specifically women, interested in sciences. The second is to help people affected by violence, and the third is to assist people with chronic illness. This year, the foundation donated $100,000, one of its largest donations yet, to the Channel 3 Kids Camp in Andover to rebuild the camp’s health lodge.

“We’re doing one big project a year,” Petit said.

The new lodge will be named after his wife — the Jennifer L. Hawke-Petit Health Lodge. The foundation has awarded more than 40 grants just this year. Petit said the strength of his foundation depends on local contributions from places such as Saint’s and people such as the St. Pierres. Petit said 85 percent of the foundation’s funds are donated from local resources in the state.

“This is the best way for society to improve and get better,” Petit said, “when things are done on a local level and by people who put their heads together.”

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Twitter: @AndyRagz