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Wheat Ridge family receives trip of a lifetime

Baking Memories 4 Kids sends family to Florida

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Traveling has been a tricky proposition for the Balderas-Soto family. It’s not easy organizing a trip anywhere with three children, and it’s made even more difficult when one is battling a life-threatening illness.

But thanks to Baking Memories 4 Kids, the family is getting the trip of a lifetime to Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland and more.

“There’s been a lot of struggles for our family,” said Vionna Balderas-Soto, mother to Ramon, 14, Jessalyn, 12, and Jesus, 10. “We never ever thought this would happen. We’ve always had the dream of going to Florida, but with the cost and Ramon’s health, it never worked out.”

When Ramon was born, his initial the new born hearing screening came back with probable issues. He first started with bilateral hearing aids and then a year later became deaf. Genetic testing revealed Ramon had Wolfram Syndrome, a rare autosomal-recessive genetic disorder that causes childhood-onset diabetes mellitus, optic atrophy, and deafness as well as various other possible disorders.

“As the years progress, more things come up that he has to deal with,” Vionna said. “He knows what he has, but he doesn’t process it the way we do. He’s just a happy kid who is living his life.”

Baking Memories 4 Kids is a New York-based nonprofit, started in 2012 by cancer survivor Frank Squeo, which sells homemade chocolate chip cookies during the holiday season to pay for trips for children with serious illnesses.

“This year, we’re providing trips for about 45 families all over the country,” Squeo said. “We pay for all of it with the cookies we sell now through Christmas, so they really are the most powerful cookie you’ll ever eat.”

In the four year’s since the charity’s creation, it has sold more than 40,000 containers of cookies and provided trips to more than 60 families.

Squeo was taken to the Balderas-Soto house in Wheat Ridge in an Arvada fire truck, with fire fighters along for the ride, and family and friends were on hand to surprise Ramon and his two siblings with the trip.

In addition to the family, the trip was very special for Jennifer Boncich and her 14-year-old son Mark. Mark and Ramon have been friends for years — Vionna was actually Mark’s translator for a while. Mark has Childhood Verbal Spraxia of Speech, which means he difficulty making accurate movements when speaking. He and Ramon bonded over their differences, and have been close ever since. It was actually Mark who nominated Ramon for the Baking Memories Trip.

“The family is so deserving of this,” Jennifer said. “I’m so proud of Mark for doing this — he knows we are to serve others.”

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