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“Cupcakes Can Change the World”: Cal’s Cupcake Challenge Returns on September 21

An amazing day of competition, abundant goodies, and family fun supports kids with leukodystrophy, thanks to a Bala Cynwyd foundation that's changing the world with cupcakes!

The Calliope Joy Foundation will host Cal’s Cupcake Challenge on Saturday, September 21 at Cynwyd Elementary School in Bala Cynwyd. Now in its seventh year, this is the foundation’s largest annual event, and promises delicious fun and creative competition, all for an incredible cause.


The Calliope Joy Foundation (TCJF), started by Bala Cynwyd resident Maria Kefalas in honor of her daughter Calliope who was diagnosed with the disorder as a two-year-old, funds research and treatment for leukodystrophy. This rare neurological disorder (appearing in about one in 7000 people) affects speech, sight, movement, and even the ability to eat. Beginning in 2013, selling cupcakes for one dollar each, the foundation set out with the belief that “cupcakes can change the world.” After six years– and 45,000 cupcakes–that is just what they are doing.


Each fall, Cal’s Cupcake Challenge draws over 1,000 people for a day of games, face painting, bounces, crafts, live performances, and of course cupcakes! Just a $10 donation includes all of the family-friendly activities, as well as an unlimited sampling of cupcakes from a dozen of the area’s finest bakeries, including Flying Monkey, Cake Life, Carlino’s, Dia Doce, Night Kitchen Bakery, Whipped Bakeshop, Bakery House, and even Sweet Freedom for a vegan option.



And as if this weren’t enough cupcakes, we haven’t even mentioned the main event: The Kids’ Cupcake Bake-Off. Each year, 50 kids (ages 5 to 15) enter the challenge, and a winner is crowned in two age groups by local “celebrity” judges.


“Some kids practice all summer, trying to fine-tune their recipes,” Kefalas told us.


She described one particular challenger who had taken lessons and came with her own set of fondant knives, and another who had entered three years in a row and finally won. The type of creativity and culinary innovation that some of these kids employ is really a sight to see, from sugar bubbles to dry ice elements. “One mom brought in a video of her kid making the cupcakes, to prove they had really done it themselves!”



In addition to the day’s festivities, the event has some fabulous raffles and prizes, including prizes donated by the Eagles and Sixers!


By increasing awareness, and funding research for gene therapy and infant screenings for early detection, Kefalas hopes to help children like Calliope have a chance to live a full and happy life. When Kefalas discovered that her daughter had leukodystrophy seven years ago, there was very little information or research on the disorder, and only two doctors that specialized in it.


Today, TCJF has raised more than $775,000, and helped to establish the nation’s first Leukodystrophy Center of Excellence at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where there are 35 specialists researching the disorder. The clinic has gone from 100 leukodystrophy patients total, to 44 per month. This is partially thanks to TCJF’s travel fund, which helps to send families to CHOP from all over the world.


Cal’s Cupcake Challenge will be held on Saturday, September 21 from 10 am to 3 pm at Cynwyd Elementary School, located at 101 West Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd. All proceeds from the event benefit CHOP’s Leukodystrophy Center of Excellence; and music therapy at Abington-Jefferson Health’s Kind Pediatric Hospice, which brings music and comfort to the most medically fragile children. Tickets are available online for a $10 donation.


The Calliope Joy Foundation supports the Main Line Parent Community.

Photographs courtesy of The Calliope Joy Foundation.


Contributing Writer