Updated: Feb 13, 2020
Maya AngeIou once said “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” I never realized how true that statement was until I met Fred – an amazing young man with Diamond Blackfan Anemia, a disorder that causes failure of the bone marrow to make new red blood cells.
Giving back is something that is important to me. I’ve been a volunteer baker for Icing Smiles for several years. Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom celebration cakes and other treats to families impacted by the critical illness of a child. Their mission is simple; they grant smiles. Families can request one fun cake per year or a one-time dream cake. Many request dream cakes, like Fred’s family.
I received my “Call to Action” to grant Fred a smile on March 1, 2014. Joanne, Fred’s Mom, had taken up residence at the Ronald McDonald house in Seattle with Fred and his sister for three months. Fred’s father flew back and forth on the weekends from Ohio to Seattle to be with the family.
I wasn’t aware of how serious Fred’s situation was at the time his request came in. Fred was being treated at Children’s Hospital and the doctors had told his family his latest surgery was it – there wasn’t anything else they could try. Their fingers were crossed but they didn’t know which way it could go.
They had been able to manage the disorder with transfusions and that became a normal part of Fred’s everyday life. But in December of 2010, test results showed the treatment was no longer a viable long-term solution, at which point Fred became a candidate for a bone marrow transplant.
I dove into this little man’s life. I learned he wanted to be a pilot. He also had a love for WWII planes, a romantic soul, and loved the art work on the nose of war planes. Armed with this knowledge I set out to create a P-51 B Mustang cake. I truly wanted to create a masterpiece for Fred from my heart and my hands.
When I arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle, his Mom was hanging a sign that had been handmade for Fred and his sister Matilda. His Dad was busy greeting guests as they arrived upstairs. While I could see the exhaustion in both parent’s eyes, they both had huge smiles on their face and I could feel the warmth and love when they embraced me with a hug.
As I looked around I saw children battling all kinds of illnesses and at all different ages. I was in awe of their courage and bravery. Some of these children were so young, so little. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what these families must go through on a daily basis.
I was excited and nervous to meet Fred -- excited for the little pilot to see his dream cake – and nervous that I might burst into tears. As a parent of a then 15-year-old boy, seeing a child go through something that causes them pain made my heart ache. I was aware that Fred’s spleen had been removed on St. Patrick’s day and I was hopeful his counts were holding strong.
When Fred arrived at the party, he was dressed in a pilot outfit from the movie "Planes". His smile melted my apprehension and put me at ease.
He walked up to his cake and immediately recognized what type of plane I’d created. When Fred walked around the back of the cake to where I was standing, he grabbed my hand. His innocence radiated through his little fingers and into my hand. We stood holding hands as he looked at all the details on his cake and asked questions about it. His sister was right there by his side sharing in Fred’s enthusiasm.
I received many thank-you’s that day from the staff and other parents attending the party. I felt so thankful for the experience. I’m not sure if the family realizes what a gift they gave me that day. That single experience made me realize just how much I value life. It also made me realize that no matter what I may be battling in my personal life, there is always someone out there battling something much bigger. I enjoy giving back and I enjoy bringing smiles to peoples faces with my cakes. Witnessing the warmth and love these families have for each other is a reminder to me that life is short and to treasure
all that it offer’s, especially your family.
I’ll always remember that sign that Fred's Mom was hanging up. It read "Goodbye Fred & Matilda." That's right, they were going home. The last attempt surgery worked. Onward and upward for Fred! As for me, I continue to check in on Fred and my soul soars higher with each update.
Since that time, I’ve donated a number of cakes to some really amazing families. Their stories don’t always turn out the way we hope but many of them do.
I continue to give my time on a regular basis and encourage others to do the same. Every call to action is a chance to grant a smile and give from your heart.
To become an icing angel or to donate please visit www.icingsmiles.com.