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Inn at Deerfield raffling 364-pound cereal, marshmallow and butter snowman

Jeff Fowler, the cook at The Inn at Deerfield, a home for seniors with forms of dementia, photographs a snowman the residents made out of cereal for a raffle they will hold on December 14, 2012. Using Fowler's kitchen on and off for about 3 weeks, the snowman was made using 105 boxes of cereal, 315 packages of marshmellows, and 16 pounds of butter.

(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

Jeff Fowler, the cook at The Inn at Deerfield, a home for seniors with forms of dementia, photographs a snowman the residents made out of cereal for a raffle they will hold on December 14, 2012. Using Fowler's kitchen on and off for about 3 weeks, the snowman was made using 105 boxes of cereal, 315 packages of marshmellows, and 16 pounds of butter. (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Mr. Red, looking delicious and happy, declined to comment, deferring all questions to staff and residents.

So, adjacent to the lobby at the Inn at Deerfield, a facility for people suffering from or nearing dementia, Mr. Red’s creators laughed about the figure outside the office door, a snowman made from breakfast cereal, marshmallows and butter.

The money raised through a raffle will go toward the resident activity fund, which means fun for these people outside the Inn’s grounds. The winner gets Mr. Red, which means someone will have to cart away a 5-foot-5, 364-pound holiday treat.

And the cereal will re-name nameless, which means the company that makes it snapped, crackled and popped when asked to donate money, adding that its trademarked name was off limits.

So we’ll call it crispy rice.

Bah! Humbug!

“We were trying to think of something to do to earn money,” said Kathie Brown, the facility’s administrative assistant. “We’re a nonprofit and we don’t have a lot of money. We like to have some extra cash, and if residents want to do something special, we’ll have the funds.”

That translates into trips to the movies, shopping, swimming at the beach, arts and crafts, local musicians coming by to strum and sing, picnics, blueberry picking, gardening.

And with that, the 32 residents here, as young as 55, as old as 93, can expect more depth and richness in their lives.

Thanks to Mr. Red.

As resident Linda Tomlinson says, “My daughter will bring my grandchildren and they’ll see Mr. Red. They’ll come in next time and it will be fun. Hopefully we’ll do a good job raffling it off. We had a lot of fun doing it. I think that’s a really good idea.”

It began last year, with a giant gingerbread man

named Big Al. He stood 5-foot-8 and weighed 250 pounds. He wore blue overalls made of frosting and a purple tie with white stripes, also made of frosting. And he wore a smile, of course, and a purple ribbon, representing support for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Once finished, once the many shallow pans of gingerbread had been connected to bring life to Big Al, he turned out to be bigger than expected. Deerfield Rescue personnel came by, treating Big Al like a patient with a potential neck injury, strapping him to a board and moving him outside the conference room.

Prestige Auto Body in Manchester won the raffle and donated Big Al to a soup kitchen, where he was eaten after raising $315 for the activity fund.

By all reports, Big Al was delicious.

Now we turn to Mr. Red, so named because Manchester’s Red Oak Apartment Homes agreed to sponsor the project this year.

People like Tomlinson, a former secretary for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, were the backbone of this project. And resident Rachel Royer, once a seamstress among many other professions, worked like celebrity chef Rachael Ray on steroids, melting and mixing 315 bags of marshmallows and 16 pounds of butter, melting and mixing, melting and mixing.

“It kept going on and on until they could put it in another pan,” Royer said. “It was a lot of fun. I also helped with Big Al last year.”

“We were a factory line,” Tomlinson added. “We were tag teaming, like we’d say, ‘I’m tired of doing this, I can’t stir this pot anymore, it’s too hot over here, I can’t do the marshmallows anymore,’ so we took turns. We took a break, and then we had the group out here.”

That group included Brown, nurse Teresa Cleaves, executive director Kelly Adams and administrator Alex McGrath.

Together, they turned the Inn’s kitchen into Frankenstein’s laboratory, creating life where it hadn’t existed before. The three-sectioned crispy treats were decorated with icing, formed into white mittens, a red scarf and a black top-hat that Lincoln would have eaten.

As of yesterday, $50 worth of raffle tickets had been sold, with a Dec. 14 raffle date looming. Adams already has her ticket, and a plan if she wins.

“If I win it,” she said, “it will go on my lawn for the birds and the squirrels.”

Meanwhile, the raffle looks like it’s heading for tradition status, like the holiday season itself. A sleigh with eight tiny reindeer has already been suggested for next year. Or maybe a giant knitted stocking, stuffed with homemade cookies and cakes and pies.

Out in the lobby, Mr. Red heard the entire conversation, but chose to remain silent.

His smile said a lot.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

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