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Recipes for hope: South Washington County children with cancer contribute to cookbook

Ashley Boesel, a second-grader at Pullman Elementary School in St. Paul Park, signs "Favorites: A Different Kind of Cookbook" during a recent book signing for the cookbook featuring recipes from children with cancer. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner1 / 2
Before a recent cookbook signing at Kowalski's in White Bear Lake, the authors were treated to a ride compliments of Luxury Limousine. From left (in the back row) are Ashley Boesel, McKenzie Anderson, Ella Anderson (no relation) and Paige Pederson. From left (in the front row) are Luke and Molly Williams, Nash Hutton and Karolyn Barrett. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner2 / 2

When Melissa Abdouch gets an idea to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, just get on board because she'll make that dream come true. In the process of raising money for the society over 20 years, she's also made dreams come true for others.

Eight months ago Abdouch and her friend Kris Getzie got an idea for a cookbook featuring the stories and favorite food recipes of children fighting cancer.

"Food is your favorite blanket," she said. "It helps get you through."

The collection, titled "Favorites: A different kind of cookbook," made its debut in Kowalski's Market stores on Saturday, Aug. 25. Abdouch wrote the copy and Getzie photographed the children and their families.

It's a collection of the favorite recipes of 11 children including Ashley Boesel of St. Paul Park; Paige Pederson of Cottage Grove; and Ella Anderson of Woodbury. All are recovering from or are in the process of coping with leukemia and lymphoma.

The cookbook kids were on hand, wearing aprons made for them by Bobby Jo Solberg and Cheryl Sousa, to autograph copies of the cookbook at the White Bear Lake store last Saturday, because Kowalski's is a partner in the cookbook project.

But Abdouch wasn't going to let this be an ordinary book signing.

She got Total Luxury Limousine to donate its services to pick up the kids for a fun ride before the signing. Each child found a goodie bag of treats and presents in the limousine.

Anderson is a fourth-grader at Red Rock Elementary School. She got leukemia five years ago. Her parents are her heroes, she said, and she wants to have her own cupcake bakery. Her cookbook recipe is for red velvet cake.

When asked at the signing if she was enjoying being a celebrity, she smiled and nodded.

Pederson, 9, attends Hillside Elementary School in Cottage Grove. Her favorite recipe is for pepperoni pasta salad. She enjoys playing soccer and hockey and likes to swim.

Boesel will be in second grade at Pullman Elementary School in St. Paul Park. Her favorite recipe is peanut butter cookies and she likes her mother's homemade lasagna. Boesel signed the cookbooks with flair and definitely enjoyed the role of celebrity. Boesel loves purple and the Minnesota Vikings.

Abdouch and her three children live in St. Paul Park. She is a cancer survivor herself, having lymphoma at 2 years old.

But a turning point in her life was the death of her niece, Jessica Stenvick, who died of leukemia in 1992.

The tragic event spawned Team Jessica that has raised more than $100,000 over the years with garage sales, runs, walks, acting and even jumping into a pool of Jell-O. Last March, Team Jessica held a mock wedding at Mississippi Dunes. Guests brought gifts that were auctioned off.

Cookbooks are for sale at Kowalski's Markets for $20.

"A thousand books means $20,000 more to fight cancer," Abdouch said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600