Cookbook for a Cause

After suffering debilitating seizures, Taylor Merriam (12) was diagnosed with autism and epilepsy. She found baking to be a therapeutic outlet, so she wrote her own cookbook to raise money for an organization that matches children with service animals. 

Words by Tracey C. Velt | Photos by Alexander Dominguez

“Imagine your child having debilitating seizures almost daily from ages 3 to 10,” says Matt, dad to Taylor Merriam. But Taylor is a warrior and found her passion for something that not only tastes good but serves as therapy for her as well—baking.

Taylor’s mom, Theresa (Taylor also has a 15-year-old brother, Matthew), says that Taylor started baking as therapy two years ago. That’s the same time she started a new medication called Charlotte’s Web, which dramatically reduced her seizures. “Taylor would bake the same box of cupcakes and memorize the recipe (Taylor’s memory is poor due to her seizures). Little did we know that this therapy goal would turn into a passion for baking—so much that I centered her academics around baking.”

In fact, Taylor loved baking so much that she started making baking videos on a popular app called “To our shock, it became popular. Taylor has high functioning autism and struggles with maintaining conversations, but going live on the app has helped her in that area as well,” says Theresa.

Taylor is now a crown-verified representative with more than 180,000 followers. She’s also a two-time gold medalist who represented the state of Florida at the 2016 and 2017 State Special Olympics meet.

Now she’s adding “author” to her list of accomplishments. After Taylor’s service dog, Heaven, passed away in 2016, according to Theresa, “Our hearts were broken, as on many occasions, Heaven saved Taylor’s life by detecting when a seizure would happen.” Heaven also detected that Taylor stopped breathing on a few occasions. To raise money for a new dog, Taylor decided to create a cookbook called Just Keep Baking. What started as a simple fundraiser has turned into a way to “give hope to people living with a disability and their caregivers,” says Theresa. The cookbook, featuring recipes from Taylor, will be available soon. A portion of the money raised will be donated to 4 Paws for Ability, which enriches the lives of children with disabilities by training and placing quality, task-trained service dogs.

“So much has changed in the last few years,” says Theresa. “While Taylor did experience 10 months of seizure freedom, with hormone changes her seizures are back. They are not as bad as before but significant enough that we feel getting a service dog is what we need, as her seizures most often come at night while she sleeps.” The cookbook will help Taylor and other children with disabilities have access to the service dogs they need.

You can order Just Keep Baking on You can also follow Taylor on, Instagram, Facebook and @taytaysnummies.

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