Candy from a Stranger

Two lives changed forever by the confection hurled at a football game

Author: Joanne Norell

It all started with a kiss.

A Hershey’s Kiss, to be precise.

That just happened to be the individually wrapped, bite-sized candy Bridget Doyle ’16 had on hand in the sparkling, shamrock-spangled fanny pack that had been handed down by her sisters and that she wore at Notre Dame football games in the fall of 2015. At halftime, she’d toss the sweets to other seniors in the student section — or at least to anyone who’d make eye contact.

Earlier in the season, when the weather was steamy, the treat might have been Jolly Ranchers or another candy that wouldn’t melt in the heat. But the forecast for the October 10 contest against Navy called for a mild 63 degrees at the midafternoon kickoff — perfect chocolate weather.

Jack Hanle ’16 sat a few rows behind Doyle. His father and brother were in town visiting, so he and his friends had smuggled the younger Hanle into the senior section. Jack knew Bridget’s friends, and Bridget knew Jack’s, but the two had never met.

The details on who actually got a Kiss are up for debate.

“I think I threw one to [Jack’s brother] first,” Doyle says.

“She didn’t even throw me one, ever,” Hanle counters.

“Yes I did!” Doyle retorts.

No matter who actually ended up unwrapping the Kiss, Hanle was struck by the woman who tossed it. It helped, too, that they had friends in common, all the easier to strike up a conversation.

Hanle spent a half-hour thinking up a witty entry. Sometime in the third quarter, he made his move.

“I just want to say, thanks for the Kiss.”

“It was the boldest thing he’s ever done,” Doyle jokes.

“Up to that point,” Hanle clarifies.

If this were a movie, “thanks for the Kiss” might have been the line that sparked an earnest romance, or at least led to the exchange of phone numbers or Snapchat handles.

“I had been thinking about what the funny thing to say was. I thought it was funny; her friends thought it was funny. She kind of didn’t, really. . . .”

“I thought it was funny, but I just didn’t know who he was, so I was like, ‘OK . . .’”

“Her friends thought it was funny. It was confirmed to me after.”

In reality, it took another month or so before their paths crossed again. Football once more was a unifying event, if only for another brief encounter.

Courtesy Bridget Doyle

Each year the intramural football championships take place at Notre Dame Stadium. Doyle had come to watch her friends from Howard Hall compete for the interhall flag-football title. Hanle had a buddy who was dating a friend of Doyle’s, and who helped coach the Ducks.

Hanle spotted Doyle sitting a few rows behind him. But a stressful day of work had put her in a bad mood, so the interaction was somewhat perfunctory. Still, he landed an invitation. Of sorts.

“We were having a Senior Class Council event and it was the first one we had done, so I was literally just inviting everybody I could,” Doyle says. “It was a senior night at Legends, pretty standard, but it was fun.”

The event featured a student DJ, pint-glass raffles and a deal on margaritas. As class secretary, Doyle collected raffle tickets at the door, cracking jokes about all the phone numbers she was pulling in so she could notify winners via text. She also took it as an opportunity to see everyone who came out to the event.

That almost didn’t include Hanle, who was hustling with an aerospace engineering buddy to finish a project. He knew Doyle would be there, but the looming deadline nearly held him back.

Finally they decided to go, “because each of us had a girl that we wanted to go talk to at this thing,” Hanle says. “And we go for a little bit.”

“For, like, five minutes total,” Doyle interjects.

The margarita line was so long, Hanle’s friend began to get antsy. Hanle and Doyle had chatted when he bought his raffle ticket, but she still couldn’t decide whether that spark was really there. After all, none of their interactions had yet resulted in substantial conversation.

Feeling pressured to return to work, Hanle made another bold move. As he made his way back through the Legends lobby, he approached Doyle one more time.

“He literally said, ‘I put my number on that raffle ticket, and you can have it if you want,’ and then ran out the door,” Doyle recalls.

“The reason I ran was partly because it was really terrifying, but also because my friend was really angry,” Hanle adds.

A day or two later — under the guise of counting tickets to get an attendance estimate — Doyle found Hanle’s number and texted him a photo of his “winning” ticket. A few weeks of texting led to a group game-watch for that season’s Boston College game at Hanle’s off-campus house, followed by a pizza date at Rocco’s. Doyle knew it was a good thing when Hanle acquiesced to pepperoni and pineapple.

They’ve been together ever since.

Though their relationship began on the cusp of their final undergraduate semester, providence kept the new couple under the Dome for another year. Doyle, a native of South Bend, landed a job in event management at the Morris Inn and, later, at VenueND. Hanle stuck around to earn his master’s degree in management. It gave them time to build their relationship in the place that had brought them together.

Distance tested them soon, though, as Hanle moved home to Orange County, California, where he worked nearly a year in an engineering job he describes as “fine,” but “a saving-money type of thing.” Then, in August 2018, he took an aerospace gig at CAE USA in Tampa, which, as Doyle noted in her class column in the autumn 2018 issue of this magazine, was “at least in the same time zone” as South Bend.

They made plenty of visits back and forth, including family vacations to places like Hawaii. They also tried to do things like watching television shows at the same time — an approach made easier with Hanle’s move east.

After a while, Hanle knew he wanted to propose. The opportunities that arose during those long-distance years never quite worked out. In 2019, though, it became his New Year’s resolution, and he steeled himself to talk to Doyle’s parents during a Fourth of July trip with her family to Saugatuck, Michigan. The logistics left little room for surprise.

“I picked him up from the airport, and he was like, ‘By the way, I’m going to talk to your parents tonight, so if you could leave the room, that would be great,” Doyle says with a laugh.

“There really wasn’t a way to hide what that was,” says Hanle.

After securing the Doyles’ blessing, Hanle spent August and September picking out a ring with the help of a family friend who made jewelry.

“I knew that it was coming,” Doyle says. “I had no idea how or when, but I kept asking, ‘Do you need to know what I like?’ and he was like, ‘Nope.’”

Hanle managed to hold onto the element of surprise with both the ring and the proposal itself. He and his father planned to visit campus for the Boston College game and stay in town through Thanksgiving the following week. With her family in town, Doyle half-­expected the impending question to pop on Friday or Saturday of the holiday weekend.

But Hanle was a step ahead. Knowing a Notre Dame Stadium proposal would be ideal to bring their story full circle, he used Doyle’s VenueND connections to his advantage. He reached out to her coworkers and explained his plan, hoping to secure one of the rooms or private boxes. They countered with an even better idea: the field itself.

Doyle’s colleagues took it from there. To get Doyle onto the field on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they set up a fabricated planning meeting with wedding and business development specialist Amber Kirk, associate vice president for event management Lee Sicinski and a “client” from the football staff. Annoyed that the meeting had been scheduled on the day before break, Doyle vented to Hanle about postponing the start of their holiday.

“I really didn’t want to go, but because it was with my assistant director, I wanted him to think that I was really excited about doing this and that I was very eager,” Doyle says. “We had a full 10- or 15-minute meeting with handouts, and I was taking notes and asked questions. Then we were going to do a walk-through of the stadium . . . which I thought was kind of weird — that [the client] wanted to be on the field when we talked about it, because he knew what it’s like; it’s his field.”

Meanwhile, Hanle rallied the Doyle clan, meeting with another of his future fiancée’s coworkers, who escorted them to a room overlooking the field. Hanle then made his way onto the field with a photographer.

“I didn’t realize [my coworkers] started hanging back, and then Amber grabbed my folder as soon as we saw Jack,” Doyle recalls. “That’s when I knew it was happening.”

The forecast on November 27, 2019, called for a high of 55 degrees with some light rain — perfect chocolate weather.

As Hanle sunk to one knee in the north end zone, he didn’t just present a ring.

And, well, it started with a Kiss.

Joanne Norell is alumni editor of this magazine.