Carson Pazdan is just a kindergartner, but he’s already published a book.
“I like to cook," the precocious six-year-old said, "and I asked my mom if she would help me make a cookbook."
She did. In August, he published "Kids Feeding Kids", a collection of over 800 recipes, including submissions from other children and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Chris O’Donnell and Maria Shriver. He sold the book for $20 and donated all the proceeds to charity.
Tuesday, Carson will present a “big fake check,” as he calls it, worth just over $20,000 to the Northern Illinois Foodbank.
The prop check is about twice his size, but hearing it from the charity he’ll benefit, it’s as large as the Willis Tower.
“When Carson and his mom Alyssa came to us with this idea, we had never done this type of fundraiser before,” says Jarrod Daab, NIFB Associate Director of Development. “But after seeing their enthusiasm and dedication, we were on board.
“We loved the idea of the cookbook, but we really grabbed on to the idea of getting kids involved. The fact that they raised nearly $20,000 to feed children in need is truly remarkable and just shows that anyone can make a difference, regardless of age,”
Pazdan did have a little help from his mom Allysa, but she swears that the “Kids Feeding Kids” cookbook was all Carson’s idea. It was born from the youngster's love for cooking with mom.
She says he has always been her helper, and that at some point he started branching out with his own recipes. He loved cooking so much that he asked her to help write down his ideas.
“One day he said, ‘you know what would be great,’” she says. “If we could get other kids to write down their recipes.”
A light went off for Alyssa, who saw the idea as a way to teach Carson about the merits of giving back and caring for those less fortunate.
“When ever Carson would come up to me and say, ‘Mom, I’m hungry,’ I would ask him, ‘You know that feeling you have in your belly, imagine that feeling all the time,’” Pazdan said.
“This cookbook was an extension of that,” she said. “I thought it was a great catalyst for parents to open the same dialogue with their children.”
The cookbook took off immediately. (Click Here for Carson's Omelets in a Bag Recipe.)
Just a month after setting off to collect recipes, they had 800 submissions. Allysa set up a non-profit and a web site, and began enlisting help to make it a reality.
Food photographer Ally Gruener took pictures free of charge and graphic designer Liz Benedetto pitched in pro-bono as well.
Then they got submissions from celebrity types --- Carson’s favorite is Oprah’s Corn Fritters, he said – and Allysa sent it off to a publisher.
In August, a semi truck pulled into the driveway of their Barrington home and dropped off three pallets worth of cookbooks.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Pazdan said.
It took Carson, Alyssa and a team of children until January to sell them all, and now they’re going to enjoy the fruits of their labor when all the kids at Country Side Elementary get a break from class for the formal check presentation.
Carson feels something like a celebrity chef.
“My principal said it to the whole school today," he said. "It made me feel really good."