Pancakes aplenty on kids' behalf


Children's Miracle Network Ambassador Nathan Ferrell, 4, of Gainesville, cheers while making pancakes with his mother Amber Ferrell during IHOP's National Pancake Day at the Gainesville location IHOP, 3613 SW 13th St. on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.

Nate Ferrell’s pancake-flipping expertise was limited until the National Pancake Day event Tuesday at the International House of Pancakes.

The 4-year-old, dressed in a newsboy cap and Spider-Man tie, concentrated as he created three small pancakes, which ended burnt and stuck together like a Mickey-Mouse hybrid.

But Nate, who is a Children’s Miracle Network ambassador and has mitochondrial disease, didn’t care. He waved his spatula in the air like a sword, splashed batter on the surrounding customers and did a wiggle for the camera.

“This is awesome,” he said. “I’m so excited.”

Nate, who has a progressive degenerative disease and has to wear an oxygen tank and feeder tube at all times, is still a joyful child who calls himself Iron Man, his father, Jay Ferrell, said.

“Having a child with a chronic illness is very painful, and being Children’s Miracle Network ambassadors gives us a job to distract ourselves,” he said.

The Ferrells joined other Gainesville residents on IHOP’s National Pancake Day for a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes at 3613 SW 13th St. all day on Tuesday.

Customers were invited to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, and the proceeds will directly benefit Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.

Donations from the Leesburg, Clermont, Wildwood, The Villages and two Ocala IHOP locations will also go to Shands. Last year’s event raised about $19,000, mostly between the Gainesville and Ocala area, and the restaurant chain raised $3 million nationally, giving away 4 million pancakes.

Miss Nassau County Elizabeth Gonzalez, 24, of Gainesville, was also at the event supporting the Children’s Miracle Network.

The money from last year went to remodeling the pediatric and intensive care units, she said.

“I’ve been doing this even when I wasn’t a title holder,” she said. “I like to walk into a restaurant and know that the money is going to the kids. It’s great to see them grow up and overcome their illness.”

Five cooks in the kitchen wearing blue baseball caps and 14 servers kept the fluffy buttermilk pancake train going in the morning.

One of the servers, Melissa Innocent, 43, said more money has been donated so far to the Gainesville IHOP than in the previous five National Pancake Day events she’s served in.

“I donate because I have kids and grandkids, and it’s nice to know if anything happens, there’s help for those kids.”

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