What Do Chocolate Chip Cookies & Disney Have in Common? Making Happy Memories!
Established in 2012 by cancer survivor Frank Squeo, Baking Memories 4 Kids sends children with life threatening and terminal illnesses to Florida to enjoy a full week at Orlando’s theme parks. The program is funded by proceeds raised from their holiday cookie sale. Headquartered in the Hudson Valley (Valley Cottage, NY),
Baking Memories 4 Kids has surprised 93 families with an all-expense paid trip to Orlando.
For two weekends in November and December hundreds of volunteers mix, bake and pack chocolate chip cookies made from an old family recipe and sent all over the United States. The memory makers meet at the BOCES kitchen in West Nyack to bake up a storm! The cookies are now in such high demand that Nilda’s, a family owned and operated commercial bakery in Poughkeepsie, supplements the volunteer’s baking. Over 10,000 containers were sold this past year.
Baking Memories 4 Kids owes much of its success to the amazing corporate relationships developed with their valued partners, ICS & Panera Blue Ridge Bread. Through their corporate gifting program and their fundraising efforts, they have sponsored many families all on their own. Kelly Jackson, owner of two Panera franchises based in Virginia and Tennessee, hosts a Change for Children program where customers are encouraged to donate the extra change from their restaurant bill to the program. The surprise trips are then announced to the child in one of Kelly’s cafes. “This is the best community involvement activity in our 25-year history,” said Brian Camey, President of Panera's Oklahoma City Bakery franchise, who also participates in the program.
The mission of Baking Memories 4 Kids is quickly spreading from the local media outlets that cover the special family surprises to the Today Show and the Rachael Ray Show. In 2015, Frank was honored by The NY Yankees during their HOPE week celebration, providing the opportunity to surprise a family live at Yankee Stadium, and this was repeated again with the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders in 2016.
“For one week, these courageous families can focus on each other in a positive, uplifting environment instead of beside a hospital bed. We recognize that having a loved one who is ill affects more than just the person afflicted, it encompasses the world of everyone around them. We give them the opportunity to create amazing, lifelong memories that may be a form of comfort for their journeys ahead,” said Squeo.
Hudson Valley Children Visit Orlando
Four-year-old Noah Diaz from Congers was born with a rare heart defect that required him to have his first of several open-heart surgeries at 2 days old. Because of the additional diagnosis of Kabuki Syndrome, Noah has difficulty walking and speaking, but his spirit lit up Yankee Stadium as Frank and his friends from the NY Yankees presented Noah and his family with a trip of a lifetime.
Caleb Cunniff from Albany was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in 2009 at the age of 2. In 2013 his father, NY State Trooper David Cunniff, was killed during a routine traffic stop. When Frank heard his story, he knew that Caleb would be the next COOKIE KID.
Clara Ryan from Piermont who suffers from a rare lymphatic disease also received a surprise trip to Orlando which the family will never forget. “The families we have met and their stories are at the core of our mission. It’s their bravery and perseverance that truly inspires every one of us. As we are quickly approaching our 100th surprised family, being able to see the impact that Baking Memories 4 Kids has on these special children and their loved ones, motivates us to continue growing and creating more milestones and memories for years to come,” said Squeo.
How Can You Help?
In 2018, Making Memories 4 Kids will be asking more Hudson Valley companies to give their cookies as corporate gifts to clients and also to their staff.
Schools and other non -profit organizations have been replacing their traditional fundraising programs and incorporating chocolate chip cookie sales into their rotation, and Baking Memories 4 Kids donates a portion from each container purchased back to that organization.
The newest program, Bake Your Own Memories 4 Kids, allows supporters from across the country to create their own bake sales and then donate the profits for others in need. Neighbors, friends, and family members are helping to do something amazing for someone within their own community. They are currently seeking Hudson Valley schools, sports teams and civic organizations interested in this program. If you would like information about fundraising, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We challenge you to find another treat that is more satisfying than knowing that with each delicious bite you take, there is a child with a smile on their face and a song in their heart, and it’s because of you,” said Squeo