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Fargo youngsters' hot cocoa bombs are 'the bomb' when it comes to helping homeless pets

Little Michelle Loueng has been asking for a cat for her birthday for years. Then her mom suggested the family do something that could potentially provide a home for not just one cat, but for several: Hold a fundraiser. For the last couple of years, they've made and sold hot cocoa bombs, then donated most of the proceeds to local animal shelters.

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Michelle Loueng, 6, started helping her mom make hot cocoa bombs as a way to help homeless cats and dogs.
Tammy Swift / The Forum
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Editor's note: The following article is the latest in The Forum's Kid Bosses series, which focuses on kids and teens with businesses.

WEST FARGO — For the last few years, Michelle Loueng has asked her parents for a cat every birthday.

“She wants to be an animal doctor,” says her mom, Tinna. “She wants to own a cheetah and a cat.”

The cheetah? A definite no.

But the cat probably won’t happen anytime soon either.

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After all, their family is already plenty busy: Tinna runs My Comb Salon in West Fargo and husband, Vutha, handles the financials for the business. Besides that, they are raising Michelle, now 6, Michael, 8, and a little brother, Micah, 2.

There just isn’t time to also care for a pet, Tinna says, knowing full well that pet-care duties usually fall on the parents.

But two years ago, the Louengs started thinking they still could find a way to help homeless pets.

Together, they hatched a plan. They could make hot cocoa bombs—which were making a splash on Instagram—and sell them as a fundraiser. While some of the money would go toward Michelle’s cake and presents, the rest would go to pet rescues to care for and feed our four-legged friends.

That first year, they began making the cocoa bombs just five days before Michelle’s birthday in late December.

Even so, they sold what they made by marketing mainly to Tinna’s customers. It was a business model that could deter only the flintiest of hearts: an adorable little girl selling chocolate treats to help furbabies.

That year, they donated their proceeds to 4 Luv of Dogs Rescue.

In 2021, they started their cocoa bomb drive Nov. 1, which gave people more time to order and the Louengs more time to crank out cocoa bombs. Tinna promoted the cocoa bombs on Facebook — again, mainly appealing to her clients and followers — so people could place orders and pick up the goodies from her West Fargo salon.

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The bombs also grew fancier, with garnishes like white chocolate drizzle, edible gold sprinkles and patterned cellophane packaging.

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In 2021, Michelle and Michael Loueng dropped off the money raised from hot chocolate bombs to Homeward Animal Shelter in Fargo.
Contributed / Tinna Loueng

“Each year, we make it bigger and bigger. We know more people and people know about it more,” Tinna says.

Last year, the kids made $200. Tinna matched that with $200 from her salon and the family then donated $300 to the Homeward Animal Shelter in Fargo. This left Michelle with $100 for an ice cream cake and whatever gifts she wanted.

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A highlight from last year's fundraising effort was when the Loueng children got to visit the cats at Homeward Animal Shelter.
Contributed / Tinna Loueng

This fall, they plan to make and market even more hot chocolate bombs. Cocoa bomb season becomes a busy one, as Tinna and her sister, Lina Tang (also a hairdresser), follow up a day of cutting hair to go home and make 30 or 40 cocoa bombs every night.

Tinna says the kids help make the bombs, filling the chocolate shells with marshmallows and hot cocoa mix before they are sealed shut and placing the finished bombs in their paper cupcake wrappers.

But anything more complex, like melting the chocolate over heat, is done by the adults.

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Michelle (making a heart with her hands) and her brother Michael, 8, help make the hot cocoa bombs by filling the chocolate shells with marshmallows and cocoa mix and placing them in their paper wrappers. They also are there when the Louengs present the funds they've raised to the rescues.
Tammy Swift / The Forum

“It is fun,” she says, “But it’s messy. My husband always complains when we are doing them.”

Michelle and Michael charge $5 per bomb and anyone who buys five will get $2 off. Customers who buy 10 will get one free.

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For this next sale, Tinna says she hopes to partner with Cats Cradle. That means Michelle will be able to visit with kitties when they drop off the proceeds. And Tinna hopes that by teaming up with an established charity, the organization can expand their marketing efforts so she doesn’t have to rely solely on her customers and friends to buy the bombs. 

“I don’t want them to feel like they can’t say no,” Tinna says. 

In between cocoa bomb season, Tinna concentrates on helping her kids realize the importance of work. In the summer, they sometimes help out at the salon — greeting customers or helping behind the till.

“They are learning a lot,” Tinna says. “I’m trying my best to teach them and let them grow.”

Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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