Special cakes for special kids
WORLD Radio - Special cakes for special kids
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, April 13th.
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Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Caring for children with critical health needs takes an exhausting toll on a family. It makes the kindness of others especially meaningful.
And when that kindness comes topped with 18 pounds of buttercream icing? Well, it provides an especially sweet reminder of the Psalmist’s exhortation to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
WORLD correspondent Bonnie Pritchett has the story.
MATT WOLFE: Oh! There she goes! [laughs] Oh, yeh. It’s a good day now.
STEPHANIE WOLFE: Frosting is her favorite.
BONNIE PRITCHETT, CORRESPONDENT: It’s the last Saturday in March outside a Waco, Texas bookstore. Grey skies hide the sun but Matthew and Stephanie Wolfe beam as their 6-year-old daughter Addie savors a taste of icing from a cake made specially for her.
Addie grins her approval.
The cake’s creator, Lyndi Garwood, is almost in tears as she watches. It’s a moment she wasn’t sure would happen.
GARWOOD: Do you like the cake? Is that good? You made my whole week, Lady! This is the best….
Garwood spent at least 40 hours the past week, including one vacation day, creating the giant two-tiered vanilla cake. It’s slathered in a thick, fluffy layer of two-tone green buttercream icing—the same color as Addie’s tongue. Edible embellishments include a menagerie of zoo animals.
Crowning the 30-pound confection is a three-dimensional figurine of Addie dressed in pink and seated in her wheelchair.
Garwood’s attention to detail includes Addie’s trache and feeding tubes. While Addie’s medical needs are inescapable, her mom, Stephanie, says they do not define her daughter.
STEPHANIE: Addie was born with a sacrococcygeal teratoma, and that’s a mouthful. And, that was found when we were having an anatomy scan at 20 weeks pregnant….
In February Stephanie sat at her kitchen table in the family’s Waco home as her husband, Matthew worked in the bedroom-turned-office, and 3-year-old Lawson played near his big sister’s ventilator and brilliant pink wheelchair.
STEPHANIE: When I was pregnant with Addie and we found out that, you know, quote, unquote something’s wrong with my baby, you know, we decided to choose life. We were asked so many times and we just said no, ‘God has plans for this kid’. And there was one day that I prayed, like, let Addie’s story help with, like, your glory. Just, whatever that is. Whatever that means.
“Whatever” meant more than they could imagine: Hydrocephalus. Epilepsy. Low muscle tone. Bronchomalacia. Medical technology keeps Addie alive.
The loving kindness of family, friends, and strangers like Lyndi Garwood with a mixer named “Bess” enables Addie to thrive.
GARWOOD: Bess is a little bit of an old girl….
Bess is Garwood’s bright red, 12-year-old KitchenAid mixer. And it’s getting quite the workout creaming pounds and pounds of butter in Garwood’s Austin kitchen.
GARWOOD: I’ve always been a big foodie. My grandma was always one of those people who, like, you show love through food. It’s probably my love language even though it’s not an officially recognized love language. It’s definitely my love language.
An urban planner with the City of Austin by trade, Garwood volunteers as a baker and state coordinator for Icing Smiles. The non-profit organization matches children experiencing critical illnesses with talented bakers who provide free specialty cakes for birthdays and other occasions.
A week before she meets Addie and her family in Waco, Garwood begins work on the cake.
GARWOOD: These cakes, they’re so special. These kids deserve the best. And it brings me joy to give them these cakes and provide them that love and a day of just normal happiness….
She draws inspiration for the cake’s design from illustrations in Stephanie’s recently published children’s book called Authentically Addie. The book is propped up on the kitchen counter for reference as she molds black and grey-streaked fondant into rocks.
Garwood’s concerted attention to the visual details on this cake is intentional.
GARWOOD: Yeh. I did know she has a feeding tube and that she might not be able to eat this. But, honestly, like seeing herself in the cake, visually, that’s why I tried so hard to really make it look like the book visually is because I want her to look at it and see all her little animal friends and see herself in the modeling chocolate version I made. I want it to actually look close enough that she can recognize herself because I think that brings a lot of joy to it….
The next day, Garwood delivers the cake to the Waco bookstore for an Authentically Addie book-signing event where Addie takes center stage.
As customers gawk at the cake and greet Addie, her dad, Matthew, recounts how God’s provision for his family has always been sufficient be it a free handicap-accessible van or a cake.
MATTHEW: It’s the love from people–strangers and friends alike–that really has kept us going through all of this.
That allows him and Stephanie to focus on what matters most.
MATTHEW: Our job is to ensure that every single moment of every single day she knows how much she is loved because she is going to be loved long after she’s gone from this world and she’s going to be loved just as fiercely while she’s here. And we just feel incredibly blessed just to hold a child of God like this.
As the book-signing crowd thins out, Matthew and Stephanie finally get a piece of cake.
Matthew gives a big eye roll of taste bud bliss.
GARWOOD: That makes me so happy. [laughs]
MATTHEW: I’m done. Call it a day. This is incredible. It’s one of the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever seen.
GARWOOD: Thank you so much.
Loving kindness never tasted so sweet.
STEPHANIE: That’s your cake, Missy. That was for you.
GRANDMA: Want some more? She’s like, ‘Uh, Yeh.’
STEPHANIE: Yeh. Frosting Queen over here….
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett in Waco and Austin, Texas.
(Photo by Bonnie Pritchett)
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