Sweet on The James

When she married into an Italian-American family with a long tradition of excellent cooking, Sharon DeAscentis worked to hone her baking skills. Baking would be her niche, she thought, among women like her husband’s Italian grandmother, whose made-from-scratch pastas intimidated her.

DeAscentis never could have imagined that, decades later, she would be baking thousands of cookies each year in an industrial-outfitted kitchen in her basement—including thousands of cookies for the construction workers building the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

“People say to me, ‘Have you lost your mind?’” DeAscentis jokes, recalling the elaborate process of baking and hand wrapping thousands of cookies. Sometimes her daughter, niece, or grandchildren assisted; other times, friends of the OSUCCC – James helped, such as Carol Schuller, wife of David Schuller, MD, vice president for the medical center expansion.

The idea of baking cookies for the construction workers at the new James came from Schuller, who was aware of DeAscentis’ baking skills and approached her with the thought in 2012. A huge admirer of Dr. Schuller and his passion for creating a new, stateof-the-art cancer hospital, DeAscentis could not resist his request.

While initially she baked 1,500 cookies to feed a crew of several hundred construction workers, an increase in the number of workers has required DeAscentis to bake more cookies— most recently a total of 2,100. A knee replacement this past January did not slow her down; to avoid the numerous trips back and forth to the oven, she made 80 coffee cakes for the workers instead.

Despite the tremendous workload, DeAscentis takes great satisfaction in baking for the construction crew. “Their work on this amazing building,” she says, “is so very important to helping defeat cancer.” Since she first met Ladonna Solove, wife of the late Richard J. Solove, for whom the Solove Research Institute is named, DeAscentis has been an ardent supporter of the OSUCCC – James. She has volunteered for the past nine years at Hope’s Boutique, the full-service, nonprofit retail boutique housed at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center.

Says DeAscentis, “Each time I volunteer at Hope’s Boutique I come in and say, “I’m amazed to be around women who are so strong. And somehow, despite the challenges they’re facing, they have the courage to carry on.”

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