Imagine as a child spending your birthday in the hospital, out of town and far away from home. That’s what happened to one Colorado girl while visiting Chicago. Jilian Nordmeyer and her family were on a summer vacation when she became seriously ill. Her mother, Amanda, said, “She was throwing up and vomiting and couldn’t keep fluids down, and it was a very rapid illness.”
Within 24-hours came the shocking diagnosis…. Jillian had cancer. “I can see it in her face when they talk about the medication and stuff, and she’s 13 today. She shouldn’t have to worry about all this madness,” said Amanda.
That diagnosis meant weeks of undergoing treatment. It was not how the Nordmeyer family envisioned they would be celebrating Jilian’s milestone birthday. They knew they needed something special, so they were connected with an organization called Icing Smiles. And on her birthday, Jillian was surprised with a special cake baked just for her.
The mission of Icing Smiles
Icing Smiles is a non-profit organization that delivers custom-made cakes for families dealing with the critical illness of a child. Every year roughly 3,000 cakes are delivered, with more than 11,000 deliveries made so far. The person behind this idea is founder Tracy Quisenberry. Tracy is the mother of two children, both born prematurely and hospitalized after birth. She decided to start making homemade memories for her children and baked a cake for her son’s birthday. Soon after, she started baking cakes for friends and eventually came up with the idea of baking birthday cakes for families with hospitalized children. That is how Icing Smiles was born.
The non-profit has more than 8,000 volunteer bakers, or “Sugar Angels” as they’re called, all over the country who donate their time and talent by making custom-baked designs.
The angel behind Jilian’s surprise
Kelly Eby is Jilian’s “Sugar Angel.” She was told Jilian was a Pokemon fan. “I researched all her favorite Pokemon and I know all her favorite flavors of cake,” said Eby. The result, a three layer masterpiece that lit up Jilian’s face when she saw it for the first time. “That is so cool, ” was all Jillian could say. Her mother was thrilled at the look on her daughters face. “That’s the first time I’ve seen her smile in a long while.”
That is the goal of Icing Smiles, providing a temporary escape from worry and trying to create a positive memory for sick children and their families. Eby says as a volunteer, the reactions from family are the best payback she could ever receive. “For these kids, it’s more than just a cake, it’s a happy moment.”
And Amanda has plans for the cake in the future, “We are going to take the top layer and put it in a Ziploc bag and freeze it, so Jilian will enjoy it when she’s done with treatment.”
Icing Smiles, baking a difference, one cake at a time.
If you would like to learn more about the organization, volunteer to bake a cake or donate to this worthy cause, head over to the Icing Smiles website. And here’s the video I produced on Jilian and her family: