In the summer of 2011, Katie Pfleger was a rising freshman at Ransom Everglades School who loved to play water polo. She and her teammates made a community service visit to the Miami Rescue Mission’s Children’s Activity Center to read to the kids in the after-school program there.
Little did Katie know her mission would begin on that day.
The boy she was assigned to as a reading buddy hugged her as she helped him read his books and their connection was immediate. The next time she went, he told her it was almost his birthday so Katie went back again with a cake made just for him.
Then she decided to make cakes for all the birthday kids and soon Bake-A-Wish Cakes was born.
That first year Katie baked 150 cakes for the children at the Miami Rescue Mission. But wanting to do more, she decided to include kids in the after-school program at Elizabeth Virrick Park in Coconut Grove. Another 100 birthday cakes were added to her busy baking schedule.
“It’s inspiring to see the immense joy these kids get from such a simple gift,” Katie, now 17, said.
Bake-A-Wish Cakes continued to grow under her care. Katie baked every week and her cakes were presented on, or just before, a recipient’s birthday with a candle and a special wish.
Each year she added a new group, including the residents of Coconut Grove’s Casa Valentina for youth learning skills after aging out of foster care. And this year, the children in the after-school program at Esther Mae Armbrister Park in Coconut Grove have been receiving birthday cakes, too.
Now a senior, Katie said she wants to make sure her program continues after she heads off to college. It’s been made an official nonprofit organization called Bake-A-Wish Cakes Miami, and it was recently awarded the November 2014 grant from the Awesome Foundation, Miami chapter.
Katie also recruited others to help her. Included on the team are Natasha Strump, 15, a sophomore at Westminster Christian School; Marielle Ogilby, 18, a senior homeschooled through Laurel Springs High School; Sloan Cole, 12, a seventh grader at Ransom Everglades School; Mae Shindell, 12, a seventh grader at Sunrise School of Miami; and Georgia Murphy, 11, a sixth grader at Ransom Everglades School.
And so the baking, decorating and hand delivering of now almost 500 birthday cakes a year will continue and grow. After all, the mission of Bake-A-Wish Cakes is “Baking a difference one cake at a time.”
‘I HAVE A DREAM’
Be ready to experience the emotional Broadway musical I Have A Dream by Josh Greenfield set for performances Jan. 22-25 at the TheatreSouth 4th Street Playhouse at Phichol Williams Community Center, 951 SW Fourth St., in Homestead.
Performances will star Broadway actor Jahi Kearse as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Off-Broadway actress Bianca LeVern Jones as Coretta Scott King. LeVern Jones recently starred as Goneril in Shakespeare's King Lear at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
Highlights also will include the I Have A Dream Gospel Choir, music direction by Jason Sweet, and choreography by Dwight Thompson of MYACT Dance Studio. Performances include a student matinee, after-school programs and shows at homes for the elderly.
Dates and times for the public include: 8 p.m. Jan. 23; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Jan. 24; and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Jan. 25. Tickets cost $5 except for Saturday’s 8 p.m. option of dinner theater and cast party for $25.
An inspiring video preview of the show and tickets are online at www.theatresouthatlanta.org or at the Phichol Williams Community Center. You can also call 305-924-3003.
Here’s a chance to do your small part to help impoverished girls in developing countries. The Carrollton School Girl Up Club and Zumba Instructor Betsy Dopico will host a music and dance fundraiser at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24 at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, 3747 Main Hwy.
Carrollton Girl Up Teen Advisor Alexandra Intriago said tickets can be reserved with a donation of $10 or purchased at the door for $15. To make a donation and learn about the mission to aid girls in United Nations assistance programs visit http://tinyurl.com/girlupzumba.
You can also email 15AIntriago@carrollton.org. Participating students will receive three community service hours.
BOWL TO HELP KIDS
Show your skills in the lanes at the Jon Jay FMSbonds Celebrity Bowling Challenge from 6-9 p.m. Jan. 31 at Splitsville Lanes, 5701 Sunset Dr. in South Miami. Jay, a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, Miami native, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade alumnus, will host. Proceeds will benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade and its many programs for thousands of area children.
The event is open to the public. Jay is set to bowl with participants at the fundraiser along with other Major League Baseball stars. The evening will include a red carpet arrival, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres, as well as exciting bowling matchups.
“We’re grateful that for the third consecutive year, Jon Jay is partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade for this wonderful community event,” said Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president of Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade in a news release.
Sponsorships are available. Cost for a bowling team of five is $475, or $125 for an individual bowler. To find out more call Jennifer Brasile at 212-277-9000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase individual tickets, visit www.jonjaychallenge.com.
Fifty Miami children in grades 3-6 received refurbished laptops donated through UnitedHealthcare’s Community Computer program by participating in the recent “Get Healthy Now Kids” essay contest. The City of Miami Office of Grants Administration Education Initiatives sponsored the event.
In its mission to help inner city youth, people with disabilities, and the elderly, UnitedHealthcare has given 75 computers to local community organizations in Florida and more than 2,000 computers in 15 states since the effort began in 2012.
If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at ChristinaMayo05@aol.com.