Statewide burger feed raises nearly $24,000 for family of deadly house explosion

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 7:57 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - For two hours on Wednesday, a constant stream of people of all ages lined up outside the front door at Dakota Butcher shops in Watertown, Pierre, and Rapid City for some hamburgers and chips.

In Watertown, it seemed like a good old-fashioned community burger feed, with friends running into each other and others making new friends with plenty of light-hearted chit-chat.

But the reason for the event went far beyond the scope of Watertown. The cost of this lunch was whatever burger lovers were willing to drop in the bucket for a family of people they don’t know that lives three hours away.

One week ago, two grandparents and an infant died in a home explosion near Fort Pierre, and two young boys suffered serious injuries. Since then, over $490,000 has been raised (on a GoFundMe site alone) for the family of Trevor and Kelsey Hupp — the parents who were at work at the time of the tragedy.

Wednesday’s total from the Dakota Butcher free-will donation burger feeds rang in at $23,801. Over 2,000 burgers were donated and grilled by the shop. Not bad for an event whose organizers were at first nervous about the turnout, and afraid they had cooked too many burgers. Turns out, they ran out of patties and had to grill more.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Watertown resident Yvonne Walsh said at the Watertown event. “People are really generous. This town is actually known for its generosity, and I think really the whole state of South Dakota. People really help each other out.”

Walsh, like several folks Dakota News Now talked to on Wednesday, heard about the event via Facebook, local TV, and local radio. When she left home for Dakota Butcher, Walsh made sure to tell the people who were mowing her lawn to have lunch there.

“I have children and grandchildren of my own, and it’s just devastating to think what happened to them,” Walsh said of the Hupps. “And, so, when I heard about it, I thought, I’m going to check with a few people and see if they’d want to come out.”

Chad Lammers and his family came from 20 miles away, from their farm near Henry. They didn’t know the Hupps personally, but knew of them.

”We’re a rodeo family, they’re a rodeo family, so we stick together,” Lammers said. “Supporting a good cause, you know? Got to eat lunch, anyway. Seemed like a good thing to donate to, and hopefully they’re going to get a lot of people here.”

The loss of a six-month-old daughter, plus severe burn injuries to two young boys — Myles (5) and Royce (3) — hit home for Lammers, who brought along wife Tina and their two sons — Ace (12) and Rio (9).

”You’re thankful for the little ones you’ve got and cherish those moments,” Lammers said.

Like Walsh and Lammers, Dakota Butcher assistant manager Alyssa Pickard has lived in South Dakota most of her life. When she learned of the Hupp family tragedy, she thought about her own kids.

”It’s got to be an awful feeling,” Pickard said. “I felt sad for them, and, you know, people can only do so much for other people, especially if you don’t personally know them. So, for me to be a part of this is a great feeling for me.”

The feeling was mutual for Dakota Butcher owners Randy and Karen Gruenwald, who are based out of Watertown and oversee seven different shops. They heard about the Hupp house explosion the day it happened, and by the next day they had told all employees they were going to have a fundraiser in the coming days.

Karen traveled to help the Pierre event on Wednesday, while Randy was at the Rapid City feed. Randy told Dakota News Now that the planning for the events was a “relentless undertaking” and that all three locations’ staffs deserve “a ton of credit for everything they do.”

“I can’t believe Dakota Butcher is doing something like this,” Lammers said. “I think it just shows what a great business they are.”

For those who were unable to make it to lunch, Dakota Butcher locations will still gladly accept donations for the Hupp family for the rest of the week.

Here is the Hupp’s GoFundMe page, where you can also contribute. Clothing sizes of Trevor, Kelsey, Royce, and Miles are all listed.

The cause of the explosion is still under investigation. At last check, Myles and Royce are still being treated at Regions in St. Paul, Minnesota for their burns and lungs. Royce received the worst of the burns at 36 percent, while Myles’s burns are superficial. Royce was moved to the pediatric ICU to more closely monitor his struggling oxygen levels.

The essence of Bill and LaDonna Hupp, two grandparents killed in the explosion, is well-captured in this feature from Tri-State Livestock News. They were both respected and beloved by the rodeo community across the state.