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Baking A Difference: Teen Gives Back With 'Cakes For A Cure'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and marble -- you name it, and Mary Margaret Mellen can make it.

But it's the 14-year-old's willingness to give back that really takes the cake.

"I'll make it. I'll frost it. Everything is from scratch," said Mary Margaret.

If it looks like the teenager has been around the kitchen a time or two, it's because she has.

There are several layers to the story of how Mary Margaret became a benevolent baker. When her twin cousins were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that affects the nervous system, it affected her.

"And it was a hard time for me as their cousin knowing I couldn't do anything," said Mary Margaret. "I was wondering how I could turn a hardship for my family and me into a positive experience where I could spread awareness throughout my community."

Her desire to give back, along with her love for baking, led to the perfect recipe for "Cakes for a Cure." The motto is, "Baking a difference one cake at a time."

People order cakes from Mary Margaret, and her parents help with the supplies. She designs and creates, and then delivers the finished product while her mom drives. Mary Margaret also runs her website to keep track of orders.

"I thought it was fantastic and I was impressed. I thought it was really cool and innovative," said mom Maria. "She's definitely surpassed my skills a couple years ago, so I've just had to help teach her some cleaning skills in the kitchen."

But while it sounds like the work of a young entrepreneur, the really cool thing may be what Mary Margaret charges for the cakes. She takes money, but it doesn't go into her bank account.

"I ask my customers to donate what moves them and what they think that charity could use, and I think that any donation is great," said Mary Margaret.

In less than three years, she's donated more than $11,000 to four charities close to her heart. The Smile Network, Feed My Staving Children, the Children's Tumor Foundation for her cousins and the Michael J.Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Disease.

Before Mary Margaret's grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson's, they did a lot of baking together.

"With Parkinson's it's become harder for her to do that. And it's really hard for me to see because that's something that we shared and did together," said Mary Margaret.

So she bakes on, using her talent and creativity. Former Twins player Corey Koskie is one of her customers.

Everything she makes gets a signature heart on it.

And the joy on the face of her customers? Well, that's just icing on the cake.

"It's so fun to see the progression of some batter turn into a cake and a cake turn into a frosted creation that can make someone's day a little brighter," said Mary Margaret. "I get to see their reaction to the drawing they gave me turn into the cake I give them. It's really, really interesting and amazing."

Mary Margaret is also a tennis player, black belt in karate and volunteers with Special Olympics -- among other things.

As part of her work with neurofibromatosis, the disease her cousins have, the mayor of Eden Prairie declared May 17 "NF Awareness Day."

She's always taking order so if you are interested in a cake, just go to her website.

You can also follow Mary Margaret on Instagram: @cakesforacure_org.

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