A Florida community banded together to provide a Thanksgiving meal for Dominick Bohoy and his 4-year-old son after the sudden death of his wife on Thanksgiving-eve.

Hours after his wife's sudden death on Thanksgiving eve, it was the healing power of food and the warm support of hundreds of Pensacola foodies that lifted the spirits of Dominick Bohoy and his 4-year-old son.


Bohoy's refrigerator was chock full of all the traditional, unmade Thanksgiving fixings when he woke up Thursday, but the 35-year-old former Colorado corrections officer didn't have the energy to cook it all up.


Trina Rael, Bohoy's wife, died Wednesday at Baptist Hospital shortly before she was scheduled to take a Life Flight air ambulance to Jacksonville for heart transplant surgery.


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Rael battled peripartum cardiomyopathy for four years, a rare condition that weakens a woman's heart muscle during pregnancy and makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Rael, just 38, suffered from the disease since the 2015 birth of the couple's son.


"It can be anywhere from minimal to very severe, and hers was very severe," Bohoy said Monday. "Throughout the years, we had been told she'd need a heart transplant at some point."


On the surface, and on the right day, Rael's condition was unrecognizable. But it took a turn for the worse early last week when she was admitted into Baptist Hospital, where she ultimately died Wednesday as her condition rapidly and unexpectedly worsened.


She and her husband had just shopped for Thanksgiving dinner items and a Christmas tree the previous weekend. Thanksgiving was a favorite holiday in their home.


"Her and I every year we would cook at our home, and this year, she even planned on making a dish that she normally doesn't make," Bohoy said. "She was going to try green bean casserole this year. Normally she does candied yams and stuff like that."


Bohoy didn't have it in him to cook a massive meal on the heels of such an unspeakable tragedy, but he wanted to create a semblance of normalcy for his young son, Zachary Hattell-Bencivenga.


So he humbly reached out to the members of the private Pensacola Foodies Facebook group around 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving to ask members if they could spare a plate of Thanksgiving dinner for his son.


In minutes, Bohoy's request was met with private messages and private message requests from fellow foodie members eager to deliver Bohoy and his son the ultimate comfort meal.


"I just got flooded with comments and it was just amazing, man," Bohoy said.


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One of those comments was from Fresh Food Factory owner James Ganus, who simply wrote: "Send me a DM and I will fix y'all 2 of the biggest plates you ever seen and bring to you."


Bohoy said Ganus wasn't kidding.


"He brought me a full Thanksgiving dinner, probably three or four days worth," Bohoy said.


Ganus said that outside of the Facebook group, Bohoy had become a friend in recent months. Ganus said he also knows what it's like to deal with heartbreak over the holidays.


"My heart sunk because four years ago around the same time I lost my father-in-law to pancreatic cancer," said Ganus, who brought Bohoy some turkey, ham, apple pie, pumpkin pie, rolls, potatoes and more. "So I just felt like it was the human thing to do. Not so much the right thing to do, but the human thing to do."


While the day was rough for Bohoy, it was even more difficult for Zachary, who has autism. His condition, combined with his age, made it hard to understand the gravity of the situation, Bohoy said. On that morning, with everything so fresh, Bohoy said he just wanted to change the subject.


"He did start saying, 'Mommy, mommy, where's mommy?' and I kind of, didn't really know how to react," Bohoy said. "His grandma is known as 'Yaya' so I started saying, 'Yaya will be here.' I tried to change his mindset."


Bohoy said reaching out on Facebook was less about filling his own stomach and more about giving Zachary a meal on par with the one his mother used to make.


For at least one afternoon, the pain was quelled for Bohoy and his son as Zachary chowed down on the feast generously delivered by Ganus.


"He, of course, loved the turkey and the sweet potato casserole that was in there," Bohoy said. "And here's a highlight, the green bean casserole that my wife was going to make was in there. I never said a word about that (to Ganus), but that was in the box with all that stuff. I was like 'Wow.' "


The owners of Cottage Cafe came to Bohoy's aid as well, delivering sandwiches and wraps on Thanksgiving. Even days after the holiday, members of the Facebook group are still insisting on bringing Bohoy and his son plates packed with homemade food.


Those who couldn't deliver a dish offered prayers, well wishes, words of encouragement and donations to Rael's GoFundMe page. The private group post had close to 200 comments as of Monday afternoon.


Bohoy said he's received so many meal inquiries that it would be impossible for him to take everyone up on their offers.


"One of the ladies (Sunday) brought me chicken noodle soup," Bohoy said. "She was really sweet, she dropped it off on the porch because she didn't know I'd be home and she notified me on (Facebook Messenger). Then there was a lady who brought me some spaghetti and some noodles, she told me she was a teacher."


For Bohoy, the food itself meant less than the swarming support of strangers. Support from strangers who had their own families to feed and their own holiday arrangements to tend to.


The gestures meant the world to the widower.


"Even though I'm going through a really, really rough time, these kind of things that people were doing were amazing," Bohoy said. "It just helped me realize that there are so many good people out there. I thank everybody in the Pensacola Foodie group, all the people that came together and helped, and even the people that offered to help. I'm still getting messages today, and it's just, man — it's so awesome."


The GoFundMe page created by Bohoy to help pay for his wife's funeral service and medical expenses, was up to $1,700 in donations by Monday afternoon.


Jake Newby can be reached at jnewby@pnj.com or 850-435-8538.


This story originally published to pnj.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the Gannett Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.