Cookies and cancer have nothing in common, except that both have changed the course of my life — and many others — for the better.

Making memories

In addition to owning Personalized Pool Care in Cottage, N.Y., I am the founder and CEO of Baking Memories 4 Kids. Our nonprofit organization sends terminally ill children and their families on all-expenses-paid vacations to the theme-park capital of the world, Central Florida.

For a full week, families can visit all the major parks — Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld — VIP-style, with front-of-the-line passes. We do this in the hopes that they can forget about their troubles for a little while. They stay at Give Kids the World Village, a whimsical storybook land where children with critical illnesses stay free of charge.

It would cost the average family around $12,000 to $15,000 for a weeklong vacation in Orlando, including admission to all the parks. For many families, this is out of reach. For those already struggling to meet the healthcare expenses for children with life-threatening illnesses, this is simply out of the question. Thanks to the money my foundation raises each year through cookie sales, and with the support of corporate partners who help offset expenses, we can make this possible.

It’s the trip of a lifetime, which sometimes can be tragically short.

The longevity of my life came into question in 2007. I was hiking in Sedona, Ariz., with a friend when I discovered a lump in my neck. After months of doctors’ visits and crippling worry, I was diagnosed with advanced stage-three testicular cancer.

This was bad timing, as pool season was right around the corner. I asked the doctor if we could delay treatment. I’ll never forget his response: “The reason it’s in your neck is because its next stop is your brain.”

His message came through loud and clear: I might not see another pool season if I didn’t undergo treatment right away.

I endured chemotherapy for the next three months. During this time, I became aware of the many people whose fates were far less certain than my own. Sadly, many of them were children who had spent the majority of their lives in and out of hospitals. They couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t sick. I saw first-hand the toll their diagnoses were having on them and their families. I wondered if there was any way I could give them at least a momentary reprieve from their troubles.

New mission

In 2012, doctors declared me cancer-free, and an idea that had been baking all the while was finally ready to come out of the proverbial oven.

Each year as a thank-you to my pool-service clients, I give them homemade cookies. They are made from my own recipe, and my customers rave about them. I decided to sell them to raise money to send terminally ill children and their families on vacation.

Baking Memories 4 Kids kicks off each fall. Our volunteers spend at least one full weekend in a commercial kitchen generously donated by a local culinary school. Then we take the freshly baked cookies to my basement for packaging. I have a conveyor belt that runs boxes of cookies up the stairs, through the house and to a delivery truck waiting outside. It’s a slick operation.

We have many corporate customers who buy them by the thousands as a holiday gift to their customers. Last year, we sold 13,000 containers.

All told, my foundation has been able to benefit 146 families. I’ve met nearly all of them. I like to surprise each child personally by announcing the Disney World vacation Publishers Clearing House-style. These announcements can be pretty elaborate. Most towns even arrange for me to arrive at a child’s home via fire truck.

I’m thrilled to send these families on vacation. And as a frequent Disney World visitor myself, I get to meet up with them on occasion. It’s a blessing to watch these kids simply be kids. They’re having the time of their lives.

All thanks to cookies.