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Baking a Difference

Mercer Island's Pies Against Cancer Fundraiser

On the quiet southwest corner of Pioneer Park, in the shade of a maple tree, sits a bench with a placard reading, "How can I help?" These were the words of Ewan Lill, a beloved Mercer Island resident diagnosed with an aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at age 6. Despite receiving the best available treatments at Seattle Children's Hospital, Ewan died in 2018 at the age of 8. The bench serves as a reminder of his spirit and a rallying point for those who continue to honor his memory.

Ewan's friends, family, and generous donors have since raised more than $70,000 for Seattle Children’s Hospital through the Team Ewan Guild, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the High-Risk Leukemia Program at the hospital. Every year, Ewan's classmates hold a birthday celebration at his memorial bench, selling baked goods and toasting to Ewan's memory. The touching tradition raised an astonishing $9,000 last year.

Enter the Pies Against Cancer fundraiser, this year’s new initiative by Team Ewan Guild. The initiative has two halves. One half pairs pie bakers with eaters to raise funds for cancer research and treatment. Pie eaters (“doughnors”) donate to Seattle Children’s Hospital via the Team Ewan Guild donation page. 

The other half is a pie-themed party on September 23, the day after Ewan would have turned 14. Surrounded by tall dahlias and pasture paradise, the party takes place at MI Funny Farm and is complete with a pie contest, raffle, silent auction, tie-dyeing, activities for children, a milieu of farm animals, and pie tasting. VIPies handmade by local celebrity bakers: Lauren Ko’s geometric works of art; triple coconut cream pies by Tom Douglas; “Seattle’s best” French apple pie made with love by A La Mode; plump and pretty Whidbey Island Pies.

Ewan's sister, Elena Lill, is one of the event's co-chairs. Elena is a MIHS senior and bakes for relaxation and to make something better than what she started with. Elena says, “I like to bake because it's like science–you measure the right amounts of the right ingredients and come out with something completely new. It allows you to create something delicious out of ingredients that don’t taste good on their own.” Elena can often be found interning in a cancer research lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The other co-chair, Maggie Tai Tucker, is a family friend who is also a baker. Maggie Tai is a social worker and occupational therapist who serves on the Mercer Island School Board. 

“This fundraiser is about pies, yes, but it’s also about the power of community,” Maggie Tai says. “Every pie baked, every dollar donated, every story shared brings us one step closer to a future where no child has to suffer the way that Ewan did.”

The secret to Pies Against Cancer’s success is its volunteers, including island mother and daughter members of the National Charity League (NCL), Evergreen Chapter, dedicated to positive change by helping others. Overlake High School senior and NCL member Noni Chandrakant is the Team Ewan Guild liaison.

Pies Against Cancer is grateful for it generous sponsors, including Island Books and Hip Zephyr. Team Ewan Guild’s next annual event is scheduled for Halloween at Seattle Children’s, where NCL will provide treat bags for children with cancer.

Details of how to bake for this cause and how to donate to receive a thank-you pie can be found at www.piesagainstcancerseattle.org.

Every pie baked, every dollar donated, every story shared brings us one step closer to a future where no child has to suffer the way that Ewan did.

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