LANCASTER — A local teen suffering from a rare disorder had his wish to bake a cake with “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro granted by international children’s charity Kids Wish Network, Valastro, Carlo’s Bakery and other generous sponsors.
Gene Cooper is a 16-year-old whose many interests keep him busy. From theatrical set design to acting to music, Gene is interested in many things, including baking and decorating cakes. When his younger sister introduced him to the TLC show “Cake Boss” starring Valastro, Gene was immediately hooked.
“I just think he’s cool,” said Gene. “I’ve always wanted to meet him.”
So, when Gene was given the chance to have any wish he wanted granted, it came as no surprise that he asked to meet Buddy.
Gene was born with a rare disorder called Rabson-Mendenhall Syndrome; it is so rare, in fact, that there are only eight known cases worldwide. Because of the condition, Gene produces 100 times more insulin than normal, and his insulin receptors do not work — something that eventually will shut his body down.
For his condition, Gene already endures twice daily injections, but he is also part of a trial study to determine possible treatments for the syndrome, as there is very little known about it at this time.
When Gene’s mother contacted Kids Wish Network to tell them about her son’s condition and his dream to meet the Cake Boss, a Wish coordinator assured her that Gene’s wish would come true in a magical way. For the wish, Gene, his parents, and his sister were all flown to New York, where practically everything was included and planned out for them, including accommodations at the famous Roosevelt Hotel, dinners every evening, tickets to various shows, and, of course, a day with Valastro.
During the first day in New York, Gene and his family enjoyed watching Disney’s “Mary Poppins” on Broadway and taking a backstage tour, where Gene got to indulge his curiosity about set design for big production shows. Also, before the show, the family visited John’s Pizzeria of Times Square, where Gene made his own pizza, putting on the sauce and toppings.
Their second day was the big one, where Gene would finally meet Valastro. As soon as Gene walked in the door, Valastro was right there to greet him.
“For them (at the bakery), it was all about Gene,” said Gene’s mother, Denisa. “They were all so welcoming, and Buddy was incredible.”
Gene and his family were given a tour of the bakery and the gift shop, and Gene got to sit down and learn some tips for decorating cakes from the Cake Boss, which thrilled him to no end. Gene even got to impress Valastro and the other bakers with his own knowledge of baking cakes and pastries.
Gene also made great friends in Valastro and his team of bakers, including “Next Great Baker” second season winner Marissa Lopez. Valastro presented Gene one of his own chef coats and gave Gene free reign to pick whatever he wanted in the gift shop to take home with him.
“It was even more than I would’ve thought,” Gene said of his day with the Cake Boss. “I would have been fine with just meeting him and shaking his hand, but this was even better.”
Of his wish as a whole, Gene laughingly quoted Mary Poppins in saying it was “practically perfect in every way!”
For Denisa, seeing her son’s dream become reality was more than she could have asked for: “Words can’t even describe the ultimate joy I feel. Just seeing his face light up … it was just a total joy watching it. Thank you.”