ATLANTA — Monday’s can often be mundane — unless the Atlanta Braves decide to make it special for one of their fans.
Freddie Freeman and a group teammates did just that as the team kicked off Community Heroes Week.
Freeman was flanked by catcher Kurt Suzuki, reliever Jason Hursh and led in by the Braves drumline. The beating of drums alerted Jen Hidinger that her Monday lunch of running the Helpful Hotdog cart at Ponce City Market was going to be different.
“I am shaking like a leaf,” Hidinger said. “It’s hard to surprise me, but this did it in a big way. I am honored to shed light on The Giving Kitchen. This is super powerful.”
Instead of a serving people, Hidinger was treated to a special afternoon from the Braves. The players helped Hidinger and her crew prepare and the serve gourmet hot dogs to several hungry people during the lunch rush.
Hidinger is one of the founders of The Giving Kitchen, non-profit that serves peace of mind to workers in the Atlanta restaurant community who are facing unanticipated crises. Hidinger started the charity when her husband Ryan was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ryan was known for his work as a chef for Bacchanalia, Floataway Café, and Muss & Turner’s.
The couple ran a famed supper club called Staplehouse. They were ready to turn that club into a restaurant before Ryan’s diagnosis and eventual death. Jen was supported before and after Ryan’s death by an outpouring of gifts from family and friends around the food industry.
It was during this time the idea of The Giving Kitchen was born. Staplehouse became an immensely popular restaurant and its proceeds go to The Giving Kitchen.
The charity has grown to give over 700 members of the food service industry grants. The Giving Kitchen has given over a million dollars to people, who’ve faced crisis situations.
After the drums finished playing, Freeman, Suzuki, and Hursh handed Hidinger a check for five thousand dollars. It was part of the Braves “Community Hero Award” week. Freeman, who is currently recovering from an injury himself and recently lost his mother related to Hidinger in a unique way.
“Jen’s story really resonated with me,” Freeman said. “What she has done, the way she has persevered really says a lot about her.”
Freeman smiled and helped serve hot dogs to surprised fans along the Beltline and in the Market. It was noticeable that he no longer was wearing his cast from the wrist injury he suffered in May.
“I’ve had the cast off since Tuesday,” Freeman said. “I’m on schedule, I feel like I’m around 60-70 percent. I have been running and doing all the stuff I can to be back.”
Freeman has remained in Atlanta with the team through his rehab and that makes days like Monday possible. The Braves first baseman and the team treated Hidinger and 50 of her closest friends to a VIP experience. Her crew was able to go on the field during batting practice and meet other Braves.
“I’m on cloud nine,” Hidinger said. “I always loved the Braves and now I love them even more. I’m so amazed by this day and what it means. I’m thankful they did this for me.”