MOUNT GREENWOOD — For a brief moment in October, to Choose Kind meant choosing cheesecake.
The partnership between the Choose Kind Chicago campaign and Dunning-based Eli's Cheesecake Co. resulted in a $1,400 donation Thursday. The money will help a little girl from North Beverly born with Apert syndrome.
Kerry Ryan Lynch of North Beverly launched the campaign in celebration of her daughter, Mary Cate. The 4-year-old girl has become a champion for those affected by the rare disorder caused by an extra protein on one gene.
Lynch and her daughter visited more than 100 schools in the area to talk about the condition that results in extra bones and cartilage, causing a misshapen skull and melded fingers and toes. About 25 children are born with this craniofacial condition in the United States each year.
Ahead of each visit, Lynch encouraged teachers to have students read R.J. Palacio's preteen novel "Wonder." The book details the life of August Pullman, a boy born with a facial deformity. The underlying message of the New York Times bestseller is to "Choose Kind."
The pairing the book with a visit from Mary Cate seemed to speak to preteens, opening up a discourse on things like bullying and what it means to look different. The effort culminated in a campaign that put Palacio and Lynch together onstage on Oct. 17 at Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Mount Greenwood.
A pair of sold-out shows were coupled with other events that celebrated children who are born a bit different. Proceeds from the two shows were used to buy copies "Wonder" for low-income schools.
Lynch said she's bought 15 copies of the book for about 30 schools. Meanwhile the proceeds from the cheesecakes will be used to pay for Mary Cate's future medical expenses. Children diagnosed with Apert syndrome can expect to have upward of 60 surgeries throughout their lifetime, Lynch said.
The seven-inch cheesecakes were sold in four area stores throughout October. Each cheesecake included a special tag that described the Choose Kind campaign and volunteers were also on hand to answer questions and accept donations, said Marc Schulman, president of Eli's Cheesecake.
"We are amazed at the success of this in the first year," said Schulman, adding his company would be willing to partner with Choose Kind again.
Schulman presented Lynch with the check at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Mount Greenwood. The North Side businessman has worked with the South Side school for more than 22 years, he said.
Besides the check presentation, Schulman was also at the Ag School as part of a job shadow day. He added that Ag School students built the displays for the artwork used during the Choose Kind Chicago event featuring Lynch and Palacio.
"In the food industry, we need great young minds," he said.
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