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Skaneateles teen using wish to provide hunger relief


May 22, 2020

Syracuse, NY (May 21, 2020)―Like high school seniors across the country, 18-year-old Caden Custer of Skaneateles is finishing up his school year in an anticlimactic way thanks to COVID-19 and related precautions. However, there’s something extraordinary unfolding for Caden that will make this year perhaps even more memorable than graduation.

The teen is using his wish opportunity through Make-A-Wish Central New York to provide hunger relief to local youth and families in need, and - hopefully - make a positive, lasting difference.

Living with cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-threatening genetic condition, Caden has been eligible for a wish for years. However, the athletic, entrepreneurial young man has done well with CF treatments and felt there was nothing he needed.

But when Caden discovered he could use his wish to give, ideas began to flow. To help Caden determine how to use his wish, Make-A-Wish Central New York gathered together local nonprofit organizations in early March. The organizations specialized in areas of interest to Caden, including academics, athletics, promoting good health, and hunger relief. Pitching proposals a la “Shark Tank,” the organizations identified how they would use Caden’s wish to make an impact.

As Caden considered the proposals, the spread of COVID-19 led to the shutdown of local communities. The impact on families inspired Caden to think about food insecurity and kids whose primary access to meals were through school. He knew he could have a significant impact on local children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs and decided to use his wish to make a difference for those struggling with hunger.

To make Caden’s wish come true, Make-A-Wish Central New York has partnered with Food Bank of Central New York to enhance its school break box program. A food drive on May 30 will collect needed items for the boxes, which have been renamed “Caden’s Wish Break Boxes.” The boxes will be packed in mid-June and mid-July, then distributed by the Food Bank to various youth service sites over the course of 10 weeks.  A total of 2,125 boxes will be distributed this summer to locations throughout Cayuga and Onondaga counties through Caden’s wish.

As sustainability of the program is important to Caden, Make-A-Wish Central New York and Food Bank of Central New York are working to ensure the program continues long into the future.

“During a time when wishes had to be postponed due to COVID-19, both the ability to grant Caden’s wish and the very nature of his wish are both so meaningful,” said Make-A-Wish Central New York President and CEO Diane Kuppermann. “Caden is an extraordinary young man making an extraordinary difference to kids and families in our community.”

“Food Bank is thrilled to partner with Make-A-Wish Central New York to grant Caden’s wish,” said Karen Belcher, Interim Executive Director at Food Bank of Central New York. “He is an extraordinary young man who has chosen to use his wish to help children struggling with hunger. During this difficult time, Caden is a true inspiration to us. His wish has reminded us everyone has the power to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Caden has made an impact on all of us at the Food Bank and our intention is to continue Caden’s wish for years to come to help others in his honor.”

For those interested in supporting Caden’s wish food drive, details are below. For those unable to donate to or participate in the drive, monetary donations in support of Caden’s wish may be made to either the Food Bank or Make-A-Wish Central New York.

Questions about the food drive may be directed to Heidi Marquart, Make-A-Wish Central New York Program Manager, at, or to Lynn Hy, Food Bank of Central New York Chief Development Officer, at

For more information about Make-A-Wish Central New York, visit

For information about Food Bank of Central New York, visit


Caden’s Wish Food Drive Details: 

What:  Food donation drive in support of Caden’s Wish Break Boxes When: Saturday, May 30, 2020 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Make-A-Wish Central New York and Food Bank of Central New York  
Destiny USA, Syracuse Silver Parking Lot – across from Embassy Suites Look for signs directing drivers to exact drop off location.
What to expect:
Donors are asked to bag or box their donations. Volunteers will remove donations from vehicles and place them inside a mobile food pantry truck  provided by Food Bank of Central New York. Syracuse Police Department will help with traffic control.
Items Needed for Caden’s Wish Break Boxes:
  • Cereal Canned fruit 100% juice drink boxes
  • Mac & cheese
  • Canned meals such as canned ravioli, canned spaghetti
  • Tuna fish/canned chicken/pork & beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Jam/Jelly
  • Graham crackers
  • Pretzels/tortilla/popcorn – individual size bags
  • Raisins
  • Crackers
About Make-A-Wish Central New York

Make-A-Wish Central New York is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization dedicated to granting life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Part of a global wish-granting organization, Make-A-Wish Central New York was founded in 1985 and has granted more than 1,900 life-changing wishes for local children. The organization believes in the transformative joy a wish can bring and is committed to reaching every eligible child within its 15-county footprint, which includes Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, St. Lawrence, Tioga and Tompkins counties. This year marks Make-A-Wish Central New York’s 35th year as a chapter. With nearly 150 wishes in process, the organization needs the support of generous community and corporate partners more than ever before. To lend support or learn more, visit or call 315-475-WISH (9474) / 800-846-WISH (9474).

About Food Bank of Central New York Food Bank of Central New York is a not-for-profit organization working to eliminate hunger through nutritious food distribution, education, and advocacy in cooperation with the community. We are the primary food supplier for 280 emergency food assistance programs in eleven counties of New York State, distributing 15,623,010 pounds of food last year. Food Bank of Central New York is a member of Feeding America. Visit for more information on the agency and its programs.

Press Contact

Dyana Smolen
PR / Communications Manager
5005 Campuswood Drive
East Syracuse, NY  13057

Phone : (315) 475-9474
Fax : (315) 475-9476

Make-A-Wish® Central New York
5005 Campuswood Drive
East Syracuse, NY 13057
(315) 475-9474
Toll Free (800) 846-9474