Maddie and her mom, Lori Gentzel, witha box of the homemade cupcakes Maddie sells to raise money for childhood cancer research.

An art class project led Holly Lane Elementary School fourth-grader Maddie Gentzel to create a company that makes and sells cupcakes to help kids with cancer.

“Cupcakes for Cancer” started out last fall after Maddie and her classmates were tasked by Holly Lane art teacher Staci Peltz with creating a poster about a shop or a place. She came up with the name “Cupcakes for Cancer” and started thinking about how she could actually turn her love of cupcakes into a plan to help children with the disease.

“I love cupcakes, and I like to bake them,” Maddie said. “So I thought why not do something I love to help someone else. A cupcake always brightens a person’s day.”

After talking it over with her mother, Lori Gentzel, fourth-grade teacher Hun Piazza and Holly Lane Principal Mimi Verdone, Maddie set a goal of raising $500 through the sale of her homemade cupcakes to donate to Prayers from Maria – Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation based in Bay Village. The foundation was started by Ed and Megan McNamara, who lost their seven-year-old daughter, Maria, in 2007 to a brain tumor. The foundation is dedicated to funding global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for childhood brain tumors, known as gliomas.

“I chose the Prayers from Maria foundation because we know Maria’s family, and I want to help them in trying to help children with brain tumors,” Maddie said.

The fourth-grader also plans to funnel some of her earnings to Miracles for Michael, a group supporting nine-year-old Michael Orbany and his fight against metastatic medulloblastoma, a form of cancer that affects his brain and spine. The Gentzels know of Michael’s story through their parish, St. Bernadette in Westlake.

Maddie started Cupcakes for Cancer by handing out flyers to her classmates, which netted a series of orders over the holidays from friends and family members. She charges $1 per cupcake. A recent order from the Westlake City School District for 300 cupcakes pushed Maddie’s profits up to around $800. International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years program coordinators Colleen Mudore and Deb Wadden hired Maddie to deliver the cupcakes at a weekend IB/Westlake Workshop. Maddie presented at the IB Action workshop, where she was asked what teachers need to do to encourage their students to take action. Her response: “You just need to inspire them.”

“Maddie and her family donate all of the supplies to make the cupcakes,” Mudore said. “This is what IB is all about – kids taking action and making a positive difference.”

Maddie has readjusted her goal in hopes of helping even more children.

“I think $1,000 or more would be awesome,” she said. “I want to keep it going. The sky’s the limit! Why stop a good thing?”

Lori Gentzel described her daughter as entrepreneurial. Maddie leads Cupcakes for Cancer meetings on occasion at school where anywhere from six to 15 classmates make posters and talk about how to improve the business.

“She’s a natural leader,” Gentzel said. “I just keep trying to help steer her toward leading something good.”

Maddie said funding cancer research is important to her because her grandfather, uncle and dog passed away after cancer diagnoses, and her family has been personally touched by other families who are struggling with caring for a child with cancer.

“It makes me feel so good when I am doing this because I know I just helped a child in need,” Maddie said.

Right now Maddie sells basic chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting, but Gentzel said her daughter printed out several more elaborate recipes she found online.

“I have lots of ideas for cupcakes!” Maddie said. “Some have a cancer symbol on it; some have a rose, stars and hearts. I want to make red velvet, lemon and tie-dye. The ideas never stop.”

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 9:17 AM, 03.18.2014