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NOTE (Monday, April 23, 2018): This post has been updated to correctly reflect Janine Achury’s surname.
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Daniela Delgado has a memory of being in the kitchen with her parents, around age 4, and waving a green scraper in the air.
“That scraper was my magic wand, and I said ‘I want to make cakes for sick kids,’” she recalled recently.
Daniela’s parents both do cake design — Janine Achury, Daniela’s mother, operates a home-based business, making cakes for friends — so it is not surprising to learn that their daughter has picked up a design trick or two already. Now 10, the Sandy Hook resident has turned her wish into an ongoing project that the family enjoys together. For seven years, Daniela’s Little Wish has been offering custom birthday cakes, free of charge, to children living with severe illnesses. Her project’s tagline is “Baking Smiles For Kids Since 2011.”
Daniela decided to create cakes for children and young adults with medical concerns or severe illnesses because she, too, is part of that group. She and her mother both have a genetic blood disorder called Severe Von Willebrand Type 2. It is similar to hemophilia, Ms Achury said, in that they both bleed very easily.
In a speech to the National Foundation of Hemophilia in May 2017, Daniela explained it like this: “I don’t have enough ‘glue’ in my blood — the Von Willebrand protein — to stop my bleeding and I need a special medication that helps with the process.
“My gravity,” she continued, “is that I bleed externally and internally because it is a combination of Von Willebrand and hemophilia.”
While waiting for scientists to find the cure, Daniela said, “I have to accept my genetic condition for the rest of my life with patience.”
Daniela’s Little Wish began when the family lived in Stamford. Her circle grew when she and her parents moved to Sandy Hook.
“We’ve gotten cakes for a few kids here,” Daniela said. One of the most recent deliveries, in fact, was for a girl celebrating her fifth birthday. For Taryn, Daniela crafted a stunning Mickey Mouse cake. Creations have also featured edible creations of Garfield, Iron Man, dolphins, racing cars, Harry Potter elements, princess castles, and even make-up items. Recipients or their parents suggest themes, and pick the flavor of their choice.
Cakes have been delivered to children and young adults in Illinois, Arizona, and even California, thanks to many speaking engagements Daniela does. She regularly speaks about her disease for a pharmaceutical company (“I can’t tell you the name at this time because they are in the process of implementing this program in all the states they have chapters,” she said April 18) and at gatherings for hemophilia organizations. Her petite stature and quiet personality hide a young lady very mature for her age.
“She has always liked helping others,” said Ms Achury. “When she told us about wanting to bake cakes for others, it was beautiful. We’ve always supported her, from day one.”
Sometimes a wish is received through word of mouth, according to Daniela’s father.
“People with children with an illness or disability, word gets around,” said Nemorio Delgado. “Then there’s my wife,” he said laughing, looking toward Ms Achury. “She will often approach people and ask if they want a cake.”
Families do not pay anything for their cake. The Delgados have friends and other family members, said Mr Delgado, who have made donations over the years, but most costs are covered out of pocket.
The family most often learns about recipients through Daniela’s very active Facebook page, named for the project. The page is filled with posts celebrating upcoming and past events, cake delivery photos and videos, and posts following speaking engagements and other special events.
Parents are asked to give as much notice as possible if they would like to request a cake. Daniela’s Little Wish offers a one-time custom cake for kids on their birthday, and the Delgados work with parents and the birthday child to design the perfect cake. Daniela then goes to work, whipping up a cake that will serve approximately 15 people.
Janine and Nemorio handle putting the cakes into and taking them out of the oven for their daughter. They also oversee and advise on the design work. More and more, however, Daniela has taken on responsibility for creating the cakes.
The cakes are often made from scratch, although occasionally they are done with mixes. The decorations are all hand done, however.
Daniela’s Little Wish does not do cakes for those with dietary restrictions.
“We’ve had requests, and we tried,” said Daniela. “We tried to make a cake for a girl who doesn’t eat eggs or milk.”
Her mother laughed at the memory.
“We really tried, but it was horrible,” said Ms Achury. “Those really have to come from someone who does specialty cakes. Unfortunately we have to say ‘No’ to those kinds of cakes.”
What the family does instead, they explained, is offer a cake for the family of a birthday child with eating problems. The family still has a specially decorated cake, but they then take care of arranging for the sugar-free or gluten-free cake for their child.
“Most kids have been fine with that,” Ms Achury said. “It’s still something special for them and their family.”
The Delgados are working on making Daniela’s Little Wish a nonprofit organization. That status, said Ms Achury, would allow the project to reach out to hospitals, among other locations, and offer the cakes to patients.
A John Cena themed cake was created for Charlie, “a very happy boy … an incredible boy who doesn’t have legs and has a lot of medical problems but he has a spirit” like no one else, said Daniela.
—photo courtesy Janine Achury
All About The Smiles
Juan Vega calls Daniela’s Little Wish “an incredible project.” Mr Vega’s stepson, Jacob Velasco, was the recipient of a cake from Daniela in September 2015.
“He was in relapse, from rhabdomyosarcoma, and she reached out to us,” Mr Vega said April 9. “She went above and beyond to make this cake, and to make him happy. She put his favorite team logo — the New England Patriots — and the words ‘Go Jacob’ on the cake.”
In addition, Mr Vega said, there was a mishap with the cake when en route to delivery. It fell, and the decorations were damaged, so Daniela and her parents rushed home to fix the cake so that it was again perfect when it was presented to his stepson, Mr Vega said.
Jacob died less than a year after his 16th birthday, but Mr Vega said the birthday celebration that included his personalized cake “was one of his highlights during his last year.”
Molly Dorsch’s granddaughter Taryn, who has Rett syndrome, was the recipient of the Mickey Mouse cake mentioned earlier. Ms Dorsch found out about Daniela’s Little Wish through Facebook.
“I thought it would be fun for my granddaughter,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Taryn was tired when the cake arrived at her home in Sandy Hook, Ms Dorsch said, so her initial reaction was subdued.
“We showed her the cake a little while later, and she smiled and reached for it,” Ms Dorsch said. “That was wonderful. It was such a good experience.
“And hats off to her,” she added, speaking about Daniela, “doing all this, especially while dealing with her own issues.”
Stamford resident Renzo Rios-Nino was the recipient of a Daniela’s Little Wish cake two years ago, in February 2016.
“I guess a friend told her about me, and they contacted my parents,” Mr Rios-Nino said April 12. Blind since age 9, due to a tumor that initially paralyzed him (he can now speak and move, to some degree), the 24-year-old uses a Braillenote Apex to surf the Internet.
“It’s an amazing machine,” he said, “that has allowed me to do anything online, which is my world. I love it so much.”
Daniela’s birthday gift to Mr Rios-Nino was a cake that included a figure working on a Braillenote Apex.
“She said it took a while, but it came out great,” Mr Rios-Nino recalled.
Nemorio Delgado says there are days when he worries his daughter should be resting, instead of working on a cake when her disease is giving her a hard time.
“Her medications occasionally set her off a little, but making cakes always perks her up,” he said. Sitting next to him, Daniela smiled at that.
“This is a special family thing we do,” Mr Delgado continued. “We feel very good after every cake is delivered.
“We may argue and fight while planning and baking, sometimes,” he said, laughing. “But we always travel for the delivery together. When we deliver it, it becomes a different feeling …. Just talking about this, it’s making my day,” he said.
Baking cakes for others is Daniela’s way to bring a smile from a child in pain or having a medical concern.
“I know what it feels like to have health issues,” she said. “It’s not a very nice feeling. We want to get them out of that bubble and just make them smile, even if for just a few minutes.”
For additional photos of Daniela’s creations, visit newtownbee.com. To request a cake or learn more about Daniela’s Little Wish, visit facebook.com/danielaslittlewish; find her on Twitter at @DaniLittleWish; and Instagram at danielaslittlewish.