by Erika Solberg
I first heard the whispers this morning in Writing.
“The Cereal Kid ….”
“Is he still trying…..?”
“Do you think he can do it?”
Having worked at VAMPY long enough to know a hot story when I hear it, I quietly asked around for whatever information I could dredge up: who was this Cereal Kid, and what was he trying to do?
“Danilo Mendoza,” two students finally told me, with a glance over their shoulders to see who might be listening in. “He’s trying to break the record.”
“The record for eating the most bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch at VAMPY.”
Once they began to talk, the story spilled out: the current record holder was none other than last year’s Fourth Fourth and current Gatton Academy student Stuart Kernohan, who had eaten 100 bowls of the cereal over the three weeks of VAMPY. Danilo had vowed to eat 101.
Reviewing my notes from last year, I confirmed Stuart and Danilo had become friends in the dining hall, Fresh Foods, and had eaten most of their lunches together. The story checked out.
Minutes later, I braved my way through the hungry lunch crowds at Fresh, surviving a collision with a small boy and his ice cream cone (note to self: pre-treat chocolate stains on shirt tonight) and keeping my eyes peeled for Danilo. Finally, I spotted him in a gray baseball cap by the pasta bar and trailed him back to his table.
I cautiously approached. “Is it true?” I asked. “You’re going for the record?”
“Yes,” he said, squaring his shoulders with determination.
“Because Stuart told me to, and I want to do it.”
“And it has to be Cinnamon Toast Crunch?” I asked.
“Yes. 101 bowls.”
“But do you like it?”
“Sure — I even eat it outside of VAMPY.”
Still skeptical, I pressed for details. “Are you doing any special training to prepare?”
“No. I just dove right in. Currently, I’m at 26 bowls. I try to eat at least three each morning, and then I’ll try to get in at least five total for the day, if not more.”
I did the calculations in my head: there were fifteen days left of VAMPY. “That seems do-able. In fact, you seem ahead of pace.”
“Yeah.” Danilo’s face turned serious. “Except I’m going on the D.C. trip this year, so I’m going to have to account for that. But I did eat six bowls the first night just to make up for that a bit.
His commitment amazed me. I was used to VAMPY students being high-achievers, but Danilo was taking it to the next level. “Do you have any competitors?”
“There was one other kid at the beginning, but I’m not sure he’s doing it anymore.”
“What about supporters?”
“Everybody’s cheering me on, telling me not to stop. My biggest group of supporters is this group of people right here,” he said, gesturing at the approximately 12 VAMPY campers crunched together around his lunch table. “And that’s my coach, Hollis Maxon.” He indicated a young man who looked reputable enough, despite his casual dress and plate of food that did not look entirely nutritious. I decided I could leave Danilo in the hands of his lunch-mates and left, avoiding the ice cream area and all small children.
Later, using back channels (my daughter), I obtained Stuart’s cell number and asked him what he thought about Danilo trying to topple him from the winner’s podium. Ever the caring and tradition-minded camp alum, Stuart replied, “I’m glad I’ve been able to inspire another generation of Cinnamon Toast-eating monsters at VAMPY. From what I’ve heard, he’s already on track to beat me, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
I will update you as this story develops.