By Megan Forrester | Special to the NB Indy
Growing up, one of Anaheim Hills resident Zach Mauldin’s fondest memories was riding his bike from his home to the landmark Newport Beach restaurant Cappy’s Cafe. The combination of being with friends and indulging in Cappy’s famous fluffy pancakes made the restaurant a beloved part of his childhood.
Now, years later, Mauldin has returned to Cappy’s for a different reason. Instead of a plate of pancakes, Mauldin supervised 10 servings of mac and cheese being eaten by Newport Beach Mayor Noah Von Blom and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill.
While mac and cheese is one of his favorite foods, Mauldin said he claimed the title of referee for this eating contest and adorned his head with a mac and cheese bucket hat to bring awareness to Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire.
“Just getting the whole community involved with the city of Newport Beach, it’s really exciting to see (everyone) come together and support an organization that’s very near and dear to my heart,” Mauldin said.
Mauldin, who is currently in remission from thyroid cancer, told the Newport Beach Independent that his wish of meeting Los Angeles Angels baseball player Mike Trout gave him the strength to finish his treatment and hopes through volunteering and donations even more clinically ill children can have that uplifting experience.
“The impact (a wish) can have on families is indescribable,” Mauldin said. “It can really bring light during a dark time.”
With a time limit of three minutes, Von Blom and O’Neill were challenged to consume 10 servings of mac and cheese, a staple on Cappy’s kids menu. Not only is their mac and cheese perfectly stringy and even includes bacon bits, but that dish and every other item on Cappy’s kids menu donates $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
This cheesy competition, which was held on National Macaroni and Cheese Day on July 14, was thanks to the relationship between Make-A-Wish and Cappy’s, a connection that has lasted for four years ever since Tim and Sheryl Campbell took ownership of the restaurant.
“We have a kids meal and a lot of kids that love eating at Cappy’s,” Tim Campbell said. “We felt that we could donate money from every kids meal sold to Make-A-Wish. So with doing this, it’s kids giving back to kids, which is very unique. So between that and the cause, we really thought (Make-A-Wish) was the right one for us.”
Even though this event brings recognition to Make-A-Wish through support of elected officials and a local business, Sheryl Campbell said another star of the show is Cappy’s mac and cheese, which brings back nostalgic memories in every bite.
“I think every parent has served their kids mac and cheese many times in their lives,” Sheryl Campbell said. “It’s a really good comfort food. With Cappy’s, we are all about bringing families and friends together and having a home away from home. We want people to feel at home here, and macaroni and cheese is one way to do it.”
Through their donations, Cappy’s has been able to help grant two Make-A-Wish wishes. Sheryl Campbell emphasized that while their restaurant may be small, the support of the community allows for visible impact.
“It doesn’t always have to be a big donation,” Sheryl Campbell said. “Just coming to Cappy’s, having a kids meal, everyone can have a little part in it. We are all in this together to make this a better place for Newport Beach, Orange County and the Inland Empire for the wish kids.”
President of the Orange County and Inland Empire chapter of Make-A-Wish Gloria Jetter Crockett praised the connection between the nonprofit and Cappy’s, and hopes that many more restaurants follow suit to complete the 562 wishes remaining to be granted. Regardless of the 7,800 wishes achieved and 357 volunteers at Make-A-Wish Orange County, Jetter Crockett said that even more growth can lead to many more smiles on many more children’s faces.
“A restaurant like Cappy’s and other community members shows that if everyone came together, we could grant so many wishes,” Jetter Crockett said.
During the contest, audience members cheered on Von Blom and O’Neill as they shoved heaping spoonfuls of mac and cheese into their mouths. Once Mauldin revealed the three-minute timer had ended, O’Neill was declared the cheesy champion after eating two bowls.
Von Blom said there are three things that he will remember from this event: the delicious mac and cheese, how little mac and cheese he can actually eat, and the significance of Make-A-Wish.
“You can give back no matter what level you are at, it’s important to do so,” Von Blom said. “Sometimes politics isn’t fun, but this is the part that makes it fun when you know you are actually impacting a life.”
O’Neill, whose wife Jenny has been a longtime supporter of Make-A-Wish, said he was thrilled to have his kids there (even placing the cheese crown atop his son Sean’s head) and promote organizations in the community like Make-A-Wish.
“There’s so much to support locally, not just local businesses like Cappy’s, but also local charities that are doing some really great work here in Orange County,” O’Neill said. “As fun as this is, there are some really serious causes that need serious attention and I hope today brought Make-A-Wish a little more notoriety.”
Despite the rarity of seeing a city’s elected officials frantically chowing down on macaroni and cheese, Sheryl Campbell said the contest will serve as a reminder for community members to give back in any possible way, even just one noodle at a time.
“Without the community coming to support businesses that are local, it all doesn’t work,” Campbell said. “We all have to work together to make Newport Beach the best community, to benefit Make-A-Wish and change people’s lives. It’s all very intertwined. We are not alone, so when we work together, great things can happen.”
To learn more about Make-A-Wish Orange County and Inland Empire, visit www.wish.org/ocie for details on volunteer training and how to get involved with the organization.
Source: Newport Beach Independent