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In The News: Make-A-Wish Month Celebrated with New Oh My Cupcakes! Creation

Melissa J.  |  04.01.2024

Story courtesy John Gaskins with Dakota News Now.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) — This was no April Fool’s joke. In fact, it was a piece of cake — lots of them.

Monday kicked off World Make-A-Wish Month to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit organization that fulfills the wishes of children between the ages of 3 and 18 who have a critical illness.

One local bakery helped make the day a little sweeter.

At Oh My Cupcakes! in Sioux Falls, the South Dakota and Montana Make-A-Wish chapter turned several wish recipients and some of their friends into tastemakers.

Seven Make-A-Wish kids, all who’ve battled unthinkable pain, were the first ever people to try the new Magical Wish Makers — chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream, with blue, white, and sparkling silver sprinkles. The royal blue frosting and blue star on top represent the color and part of the logo of Make-A-Wish.

The reviews were rave.

”Amazing,” said Alexa Rothenberger, an 11-year-old Make-A-Wish recipient. “It was a 10 out of 10. I would not change anything,”

Steven Harmon, an 18-year-old Make-a-Wish recipient, called the dessert “a great cupcake. I mean, the flavor’s great. The frosting’s good. Everything’s good about it.”

But the Make-A-Wish South Dakota president and CEO said the true stars of the event were the kids.

“They are here and they are healthy having the time of their lives and eating sugar for breakfast,” said Sue Salter, who just two months ago led the celebration of her chapter’s 40th anniversary.

Days like today literally are a cake walk compared to what the recipients have been though.

Steven Harmon, 18, spent over two years battling brain cancer. This includes three surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy. The Roosevelt High School senior spent a lot of time from his freshman through junior years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester receiving treatments.

Instead of playing the sport he loved as often as he’d like, the Roughrider basketball player spent many nights with his father watching NBA games in his hospital room. Often, this diversion was made more enjoyable with the charismatic crew of the popular studio pre-game and post-game show “Inside the NBA on TNT,” which has won 18 Sports Emmy Awards.

So, upon registering at Make-A-Wish, Steven tabbed meeting hoops icons Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and lead anchor Ernie Johnson — a Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer — as his wish.

A year ago in April, that wish came true. Johnson is a fellow cancer survivor, whose son Michael died in 2021 at the age of 33 of muscular dystrophy. Johnson greeted Steven, his family, and a fellow Make-A-Wish recipient at the show’s building in Atlanta. The six-time Sports Emmy winner chatted with the group for a half-hour. Then, it was time for the group to meet Johnson’s co-hosts, the gregarious, wise-cracking ballers.

”We went on the set, met all the guys, just had a blast,” Steven said. “They were all great guys. When you think about the most genuine people, that’s what these people were. They were just amazing, kind, caring, compassionate, and just funny. When you see them on TV, they’re exactly in TV like they are in real life.”

Alexa Rothenberger, 11, sat at Steven’s table on Monday. She was born with cystic fibrosis, which wreaks havoc on the lungs and digestive system. Alexa is thankful that so much advancement has been made in medicine and treatment for the disease since the days her grandmother was growing up, when the life expectancy was a maximum of six years.

A couple months ago, Make-A-Wish made Alexa’s wish of traveling to Hawaii with her parents and sister come true.

”I went parasailing, ziplining, snorkeling and just the beach,” said Rothenberger. “It’s just really special because not all kids get to do it.”

Not long after, the Rothenbergers made a trip to Disney World, which was the wish for Alexa’s sister.

These excursions are funded by individual and corporate donations to Make-A-Wish — and, this month in Sioux Falls, through through the Magic Wish Maker cupcakes. A portion of the sale from each of them sold in April will help make more magic for more kids. The promotion is done in part to raise awareness for the foundation and, Salter hopes, to bring in more volunteers locally.

”The vibrancy and resiliency of each and every one of them is really special,” Salter said of the recipients at Oh My Cupcakes. “They’ve all overcome so much, and they want to give back. They want to make more wishes come true for other kids.”

Both Steven and Alexa are healthy. Alexa needs constant treatment — there’s no cure yet for cystic fibrosis — but the treatment, she said, works well. Steven has been cancer free for over a year.

He’s been a part of Roosevelt’s basketball program his entire time at the school, and was able to play some as a junior last year after he was medically cleared. But he had to step away from playing as a senior this year because of some optical fallout from the cancer and treatments — double vision.

However, Steven remained a part of the team as a statistician, calling head coach Mitch Begeman and his staff “an awesome group of coaches.” A math and science enthusiast for as long as he remembers, Steven plans to be a biochemistry and pre-med student at USD, with a focus on neuro oncology, which involves the study of brain and spinal chord tumors.

His experience with his own brain tumors makes Steven want to make a career out of helping others with them.

“You’ve just got to enjoy every little second you get,” Steven said. “You can’t take anything for granted because you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, you shouldn’t worry about that. Cancer’s taught me not to worry because no matter what, I always believe God’s got you. You’ve just got to enjoy life and keep on pushing through and keep moving forward.”

Although he was at least a few years older than the other Make-A-Wish recipients at Oh My Cupcakes, Steven seemed to have a natural bond with them. It was a happy occasion. A day to enjoy the sweeter things in life, like cupcakes.

“They’re all talking about their wishes and their most favorite parts,” Steven said. “It really just brings you a lot of joy, seeing that all these kids that have battled hard things, unimaginable things, could get a wish like that granted, so it’s just really awesome.”

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