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Can't hold a candle to birthday pancakes

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A Hays fifth-grader was looking forward to eating his chocolate birthday cake with one of his favorite baseball players' numbers on it.

But was Brady Kreutzer in for a surprise Wednesday.

He got to celebrate his 11th birthday in front of his classmates and a lot of other schoolmates, blowing out a candle glowing atop a stack of five pancakes.

"No, never on pancakes," Brady said when asked if he had ever blown out candles on such an unusual birthday "cake."

Brady's parents, Kyle and Jaime Kreutzer, had planned to eat with their youngest son at his school, Holy Family Elementary, on his birthday. But a snowstorm hundreds of miles away in Iowa changed that.

Jim Kuper is a traveling "Pancake Man" who has been making and serving pancakes at Holy Family for several years in conjunction with the Hays Lions Club pancake feed, which was Tuesday at Hays National Guard Armory.

Kuper normally schedules the Holy Family feed the day before the Lions Club event, but he was snowed in at his home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and had to reschedule the school event.

Brady's parents hadn't signed up for the original pancake feed at Holy Family on Monday, so when it was rescheduled to Wednesday, they decided to just postpone eating with him at school for a day, too.

"He was surprised," said Brady's mom, who was to join him for lunch at school today. "And he was excited. He said, 'Mom, they sang happy birthday to me, and they even had a candle in my pancakes.' "

Then that evening, Brady celebrated at home at a small family party that featured a chocolate cake iced to look like a baseball, with the number 10 for recently retired Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.

Another Holy Family student, fourth-grader Sarah Braun, also celebrated her birthday Wednesday when she turned 10. Kuper didn't know of Sarah's special day when she came through the lunch line with her fourth-grade classmates. But she got to celebrate later in the day anyway when her mom brought one of Sarah's favorite snacks, brownie bites, to her classroom.

Brady's classmates also got another treat in the afternoon when his mom brought Dairy Queen Mini Blizzards to school.

Coincidentally, had Kuper's visit not been postponed to Wednesday, there wouldn't have been any "Happy Birthday" wishes. The large calendar hanging on a bulletin board outside the school cafeteria that lists students' birthdays for that particular month was blank for March 11.

"That worked out well, didn't it?" said Rachel Wentling, Holy Family principal.

Wednesday was Wentling's first experience with the Pancake Man in a school setting, and she was impressed with Kuper.

"It was a really fun lunch; (Kuper) is really good with the kids," said Wentling, who has attended the Lions Club pancake feed for several years and is in her first year as principal at Holy Family.

Like always, Kuper got plenty of cheers from the students when he would walk out into the crowd and flip pancakes to the parents.

"I've heard all year that he really enjoys coming to Holy Family," Wentling said of Kuper. "And it shows."