Ray Stobel: A Helping Heart

Ray Strobel uses his love of cooking to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Ray having fun and getting messy while making brownies at home.

Ray Strobel’s interest in cooking began when he started helping his mom, Angie, in the kitchen of their White Bear Lake home.

“I started cooking with Mom a couple of years ago, helping with dinner,” he says. But the ambitious and imaginative 7-year-old didn’t stop there; he started cooking breakfast and lunch as the chef of Ray’s Parlor, coming up with daily specials and employing Lucy, the family dog, to make deliveries. Angie mentioned to a coworker how much fun Ray was having at his make-believe restaurant, and the idea of hosting a pancake breakfast was born.

“I kiddingly mentioned it to Ray,” Angie says, but soon the idea was becoming a reality. Ray was excited to use his newfound talent to give back to a worthy cause. “We had talked about charities before, and finding one that reflects your values,” she says. “He has such a caring heart, and he feels it’s a responsibility for everyone to help do what they can.”

Ray and Angie decided his pancake breakfast would be a fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organization that partners with local hospitals to provide housing for families with children undergoing treatment for serious illnesses. The charity’s fundraising coordinator provided advice and support along the way, as well as volunteers for the big day. “It truly shows what they’re about, to respond to even small fundraisers like this,” Angie says.

The White Bear Lake American Legion Post 168 donated its facility for the event, and Trade Press Inc. printed 300 flyers Ray and Angie distributed to local businesses to publicize the breakfast. Many area businesses donated along the way, with Ingredients Café, Keys Café and Bakery, Target, Cub, Kowalski’s and more contributing everything from pancake mix to cups and napkins.

“We learned so much about our community,” Angie says of the outpouring of support Ray received for the event. “Everyone was so encouraging, and we have great businesses that rally behind their people.”

Initially afraid the fundraiser would be under-attended, in the days leading up to it, Angie found herself facing the possibility of having to turn people away. “But what a great problem to have,” she says, though Ray begs to differ. “That’s a horrible problem to have,” he says.
For Ray, promoting the event was the biggest challenge. As much as he loves cooking and helping people, he has a sensory processing disorder that makes stimuli like noise, crowds and even smells overwhelming, so going in to unfamiliar places and becoming the center of attention was far outside his comfort zone.

“The other side of the disorder is that he’s able to see so many things at such a young age,” Angie says. “He pushed through his own discomfort and was willing to get out there and try.”

Held on Saturday, September 23 from 9 a.m.–noon, the breakfast was a smashing success, raising nearly $2,000 for Ronald McDonald House. Over 100 friends, classmates, neighbors and community members came together over pancakes, sausages, eggs, juice and coffee, cooked and served by Ray and volunteers.

“It was amazing to see the turnout,” Angie says. “All these people were there for something positive that a 7-year-old made happen.”

Though Ray isn’t sure if the breakfast will become a recurring event, it’s clear he’ll keep finding ways to combine creativity and compassion. “I like making stuff, building stuff, creating stuff,” he says.  

For more information on Ronald McDonald House Charities, including community fundraising events and how you can help support local families, please call 612.331.5752 or visit the website here.