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A Happy Timsgiving

DATE: Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Thompson family creates scholarship in memory of son and brother Timothy '00

Timmy Thompson, left and his brother Chris carve a turkey

Editor's Note: This story also appears in the Spring 2022 edition of HCC's college magazine, The Connection, under the headline "Finding a Way Through the Pain."

By DOUG SCANLON

On Nov. 22, 2019 – pre-pandemic times – several dozen friends, family members, and supporters gathered inside Nosh Cafè and Restaurant in Springfield, Mass., to celebrate something called "Timsgiving." 

To understand Timsgiving, one must first appreciate the significance of rosemary mashed potatoes. That was the signature dish of Timothy "Timmy" Thompson '00, one that he picked up as a culinary arts student at HCC and introduced to his family more than 20 years ago, before his tragic death from opioid overdose in 2004, just weeks after his 24th birthday. In fact, the roots of Timsgiving go back even further than that.

Timmy was the second child of three. His father, Robert '73, was one of nine siblings, his mother, Kathleen '72, one of seven. During his youth, Timmy, his sister Kara '04, brother Chris, and all of their aunts, uncles, and cousins would bond by cooking together at family gatherings.

"Everyone would show their love by feeding each other, and I think that's something that always resonated with him," said Kara. 

As Timmy matured, so did his interest in food, a hobby that grew toward a career. 

"It was a natural progression when Tim decided to study culinary arts at HCC," said Kathleen. "He had always been a hands-on type of learner, so the program was perfect for him." 

Soon Timmy was trying out new recipes at home. The rosemary mashed potatoes became a staple of Thanksgiving in the Thompson home, a tradition that continues to this day. 

After his passing, Timmy's family started exploring ways to honor his memory. Kara contacted the HCC Foundation. Amanda Sbriscia, vice president of Institutional Advancement, then invited Kara and her parents to tour the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute, and they began to talk about setting up a scholarship in Timmy's name. 

"It felt like things were finally in motion, like we finally had a plan to help us through the pain of losing a brother, losing a son, and keeping that alive while making a difference for someone else," Kara said. 

To promote the scholarship, and bring together family and friends, Kara and her parents came up with the idea of TimmyGives, the organizing entity for Timsgiving and other fundraising platforms that honor Timmy. Timsgiving was meant to build upon the tradition of sharing good food among family and friends while also raising money for the Timothy "Timmy" M. Thompson Memorial Scholarship, which will provide tuition assistance to a deserving student enrolled in the college's culinary arts or hospitality management programs. (Additionally, Timsgiving raised funds for the Community Music School of Springfield – Timmy was also a drummer – and Baystate Health Foundation.) 

"It was an honor to be present at that inaugural Timsgiving," said Sbriscia. "Kara and her family created an atmosphere filled with joy and hope with amazing food and music – all the things Timmy loved. The scholarship they have established at HCC will not only create opportunities for future generations of culinary arts students, it will enable those students to learn about Timmy and carry his memory forward." 

The evening was such a success the family decided to make it an annual event. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they decided to put Timsgiving on pause. But that didn't mean supporting a great cause had to wait. Last fall, Peg '58 and Gary Wendlandt issued a donor challenge that included a $5,000 contribution for gifts of $1,000 or more to any existing HCC fund, including Timmy's scholarship. With the Wendlandts' matching gift, and another generous donation from Kara, the scholarship is close to being endowed.

The Thompsons are excited about the possibilities.

"We hope to help financially challenged students who share Tim's passion for food and cooking," said Kathleen. "We know he would be proud of this award in his name, and it brings us great joy and pride to fund it. It keeps him ever present to us, to know he is helping others."

Adds Kara: "This whole process has brought my family a lot of joy, a lot of closure, and helped ease some pain that we were hanging on to." 

If you are interested in contributing to the Timothy "Timmy" M. Thompson Memorial Scholarship or establishing a scholarship to honor someone else, please contact HCC's office of Institutional Advancement at 413.552.2746

PHOTOS: (Above) Timmy Thompson '00 and his brother Chris carve up a turkey one Thanksgiving Day. (Thumbnail) Timothy "Timmy" Thompson '00



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