TOWSON - It's the one thing every kid looks forward to-- their birthday. The presents, the games, the cake, it's all part of making their special day magical. But for critically ill children, those special days can often go uncelebrated.
When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, it can mean spending months or years in and out of hospitals. Things like holidays and birthdays can often go unnoticed. That's why Tracy Quisenberry started the charity Icing Smiles, which provides custom celebration cakes and treats for critically ill children.
"You understand that the impact you're having is creating life-long memories for these families," Quisenberry said.
She started the charity in 2010 while being a stay-at-home mom in Howard County. She vividly remembers the first cake she decorated and delivered, to a six-year-old girl named Violet who had a brain tumor. Violet was heavily drugged on morphine and Quisenberry said the little girl didn't have quite the reaction she was hoping for when she gave her the cake.
"My husband said to me, 'Will you do this again?' And I said I don't know. I didn't think I'd be able to serve again," she said.
Then Quisenberry saw an elderly couple standing at the reception deck, holding birthday balloons. She overheard them talking about the cake and how much they appreciated it. The grandmother was in tears. That reassured Quisenberry she was doing the right thing.
10 months later, Violet passed away.
"I had the pleasure of being able to serve her with what was her last birthday cake, and it was just an amazing experience," Quisenberry said.
Sadly, many of the cakes Icing Smiles serves are the last birthday cake for a child. Volunteer baker Jason Hisley, owner of La Cakerie, knows that's why it's important to make his Icing Smiles' cakes over-the-top and spectacular.
"It's a unique experience and you're making memories for these kids and their families," he said.
Icing Smiles is a nationwide charity and is also expanding overseas. If you'd like to become a volunteer baker or learn about other volunteer opportunities, check out the website here .