Catonsville sixth-grader to hold birthday bake sale for children with HIV Saturday

Like most boys turning 12, Luke Pound will have cake and cookies at his birthday party Saturday, Oct. 22.

For Luke, though, the desserts serve as inventory.

They'll be part of a bake sale taking place in front of his home on the 400 block of Lambeth Road, in Academy Heights, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Luke will send the proceeds to the Pediatric AIDS Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center Hospital for Children.

"There's always been something about Luke that truly cares about other people," said Melissa Pound, Luke's mother.

It all started last January in Luke's fifth-grade health class at Westowne Elementary School when he learned about HIV and AIDS.

"When Luke came home from school that day, he honestly looked teary when he told me that children could start out in the world that way," Pound said.

"For some reason, this really touched him, finding out about HIV and children being born with HIV."

Immediately, Luke began saving money to help the cause.

Whatever change he received after buying something, Luke said he would save.

Occasionally, he'd put a dollar bill aside, he added.

Luke didn't count the money regularly, but estimated he saved just under $10 by the end of the summer.

Since announcing that he would hold the bake sale to bolster the effort, he started receiving donations.

As of Oct. 18, he said he had about $90.

"It's amazing how much it's grown," Luke said. "I don't really have much of a goal for this.

"All I want is to sell as much stuff as we can. Hopefully, we'll be shocked at the total outcome."

His mother said Luke has requested that people donate to the Pediatric AIDS Program in lieu of presents.

"Our present to him is helping him with it," his mother said. "We don't expect him to do everything."

Luke has no regrets about not getting toys or video games.

"Everybody who is helping out in any way, they're giving that gift to me," Luke said. "I really like seeing people giving their time and money toward this organization.

"Making me happy with this is kind of my present."

Adding to the cause

Luke will have the support of his two brothers.

Ethan, 9, will help selling the food, and Henry, 3, will eat the food and charm customers, Pound said.

Luke will also have about six friends from Catonsville Middle School, where he's a sixth-grader, take shifts working at the bake sale.

Many classmates have also promised to bring baked goods.

Liz Getsinger, the teacher who taught Luke the weeklong health lesson that inspired him, spread the word around Westowne Elementary School and has received strong feedback.

"Not a total surprise," Getsinger said of learning Luke organized a fundraiser. "I was just like, 'Oh. That's my Luke.'

"When he commits himself to something, it's no joke. He's so serious about accomplishing things."

Teachers have given Getsinger money to donate to the cause and others have saved the date.

"He's got such a good heart and a great spirit," Getsinger said. "Everybody is really impressed around here."

In addition to his friends, another half dozen or more workers at the Pediatric AIDS Program will bake items and attend the sale, said Dr. Vicki Tepper, the director of the program.

Only once in Tepper's 21 years working at the program, which currently treats 204 children who have AIDS or are HIV positive children, has she seen someone do something similar to Luke's bake sale.

In 2007, a newly-wed couple requested that people send donations to the program instead of giving them gifts, Tepper said.

"I think this is a very unusual gesture for such a young person to do in a very wonderful way," said Tepper, who will make chocolate cupcakes with purple frosting for the bake sale.

The money that Luke donates, Tepper said, will go toward transporting about 20 of the children in the program to Ashford, Conn., where they will take part in The Hole in the Wall Gang camp.

The camp, founded by actor Paul Newman in 1988, allows children with serious and life-threatening conditions to participate in activities such as miniature golf, swimming, boating and horseback riding.

While the camp is free, transporting the kids is expensive, Tepper said.

Luke is quick to deflect any praise he gets to those who helped put this project together.

"It's not really just me that's helping them out," Luke said. "It's everybody who's going to be coming and donating food and money."

Asked if he plans on having another fundraiser on his birthday next year, Luke said it depends on the results.

"If this turns out really good, it might as well become a tradition," he said. "I think it might become a tradition.

"And if it doesn't, I'll still be donating."

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