Teen's zest for life lives on in BBQ sauce - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Teen's zest for life lives on despite terminal illness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It turns out that Colonel Sanders isn't the only kitchen wizard from Kentucky with a secret recipe.

A young boy's creation is now hitting store shelves, and it has the potential to do much more than satisfy hungry diners. As Elizabeth Woolsey explains, the labor of love is part of a dying boy's last wish.

Carlos Turner never had a normal childhood. He was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis -- a devastating respiratory disease that slowly and steadily robs the body of its ability to breathe.

It was a diagnosis that struck fear in the heart of the family from day one.

"It was scary because of the fact we were told there was no cure, and were told it generally takes children at a very young age and we could lose our son at any time," said Carlos' mother, Consuela Turner.

So the hallways at Kosair Children's Hospital became a second home to Carlos and his family. One therapist, Elizabeth Sanders Martin, remembers the first time she met Carlos.

"Carlos was absolutely adorable -- big brown eyes, gorgeous long eyelashes, dark hair, cute as a button at two years of age, always smiling, always happy," Martin said.

Carlos spent weeks every year at Kosair, receiving medication and treatment for his failing lungs. His second family at Kosair played a big part in the happiness he did have.

"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 said. "They're not just people who work there. They're family."

Despite his debilitating disease, one thing stood out about Carlos: he wasn't focused on himself.

"When I think of Carlos and his family, I think of how extremely generous ... he was very giving, thinking of other people constantly wanting to give back," said Martin.

One way he could do that was through his passion for cooking. Carlos loved to share his special Bar-B-Que sauce that he spent countless hours perfecting.

Carlos even had a special sauce-making kettle. 

"He didn't tell us what all he was doing," Consuela said. He wanted it to be kind of a secret recipe just like Colonel Sanders."

Carlos did in fact have a handwritten secret recipe that he didn't share with anyone. He even kept the recipe in a safe under lock and key -- just like Colonel Sanders.

As a teenager, the disease continued to progress and took more of a toll on Carlos' health, and it became clear he didn't have long to live. Make a Wish stepped in and granted a last request. Instead of a trip to Disneyland, Carlos chose a trip to his favorite store -- Walmart -- to stock up on kitchen supplies to make his special sauce.

His family didn't know it, but Carlos had another secret up his sleeve. He was thinking about his legacy, working with a Kosair therapist to blend his passion for cooking with his love for those who devoted their lives to helping him. His last wish involved his special sauce.

"He wanted it to be marketed, to bottle and sell it and money come back to the hospital," Martin said.

After years of battling his condition, Carlos' young body gave out before his dream became a reality.

"The last time I saw him was hard," Martin said. "He was starting to become pale, thinner, having more trouble breathing -- not the energetic fun spirit I remember. The sparkle in those beautiful brown eyes was starting to fade and you could see that. It was hard

It was hard on Consuela too, but she takes comfort in knowing he went peacefully.

"He wanted to live but he was at peace, he knew he was going to heaven," Consuela said.

After Carlos passed away, local companies like Bloemer's Food Service kept his dream alive by making and bottling the sauce using the recipe Carlos came up with. 

"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," said Tim Bloemer with Bloemer Food Sales. "It's about doing something to help somebody out."

Now four years after Carlos passed away at the age of 16, it's finally hitting store shelves at Walmart. We were there when the family got the news.

"It's out there! Consuela said with a huge smile.

Proceeds from the sauce will go back to Kosair children's Hospital, just as Carlos wanted. It's a legacy his family is proud of as they share their son's last wish and his last message to them -- a tender "I love you."

So far 27 Walmarts will be carrying Carlos' Homestyle Bar-B-Que Sauce.

The proceeds will be used to help art therapy and volunteer programs at Kosair Children's Hospital.

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