Sweet Idea

Sixth grader donates cake-baking profits to charities.

When most kids are bored, they watch TV or read a book. For Mary Margaret Mellen, a free summer afternoon was the perfect time to start her own charity. “I was like, ‘You know what? I am bored today. I really want to do something for others. I’m starting a cake business,’ ” she recalls thinking. And just like that—Cakes for a Cure was born.

Mary Margaret, 12, spent that summer afternoon creating paperwork, recipes, a PowerPoint presentation and even promotional videos, highlighting her charitable endeavor. Her parents, Jay and Maria Mellen of Eden Prairie, later bought her a website domain, cakesforacure.org, for her 12th birthday.

Turning her affinity for baking into a charity was a natural fit for Mary Margaret. “I’ve always loved to bake. My mom makes me special cakes for my birthday,” she explains. The sixth grader at St. Hubert School, Chanhassen, was also inspired into action. “Helping others is part of my Catholic faith,” she says. “I wanted to turn my love of baking into a way to help others.”

Mary Margaret designated three charities to benefit from her cake making business, including the Children's Tumor Foundation, which supports research and provides care for those with neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to develop on new tissue. Funds also support the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and Feed My Starving Children, which provides meals designed to reverse the effects of malnutrition to agencies worldwide.

Mary Margaret has compelling reasons for choosing each charity. “She has some illnesses in the family,” Maria says. “It was an opportunity to spread awareness, to turn something potentially hard into something where we can make a difference.” Her grandmother is living with Parkinson’s disease, and twin cousins have NF. As for selecting Feed My Starving Children, Mary Margaret says, “I believe every child and family should have food.”

In 2016, the three charities received $815 (combined) from Cakes for a Cure. Mary Margaret has set her sights on donating $1,500 to the charities in 2017 and already raised $1,070.  There’s no telling how many cakes it will take to reach that goal. Customers select which charities the money for the cakes will be donated to, and they determine how much to pay.

While Mary Margaret takes customer requests, she has a list of specialty cakes, including vanilla, German chocolate, carrot, yellow, pumpkin spice Bundt and s’mores. “I’ll usually say 'I’ll bake whatever you want',” Mary Margaret says. “There aren’t limitations. I’ll do my best. The chocolate cake is to die for. It’s really popular.” Once an order is submitted, she operates completely independently. “I make sure she has the supplies, but she has to give me a list,” Maria explains. “She does all the baking and all the dishes.”

Cakes for a Cure has already had a powerful effect on people in the community. “We were delivering a cake and ran into a family, who inquired about what she was doing,” Maria says. “She ended up being an NF mom, and she just started crying. It was so powerful for Mary Margaret to see that she is making such a big difference in the lives of people with these diseases.”

Her mother isn’t the only person who notices the effect Mary Margaret is having. Cakes for a Cure was featured on the Instagram account of Ivivva, a store at the Mall of America that was celebrating girls who are making a difference in the world.  “I am so proud of her for channeling her energy into something positive into the world,” Maria says. “She’s most definitely a change maker.” For Mary Margaret, the goal is simple. “To sum it up,” she says. “Together, we’ll find a cure.”  

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