Winning Flavor Benefits Make A Wish Southern Florida


Most people remember the 2016 presidential match-up as the choice between the lesser of two evils, but Fort Myers Beach held an election on Sunday, July 16, where everyone savored a delicious selection, when Royal Scoop Ice Cream at 2307 Estero Boulevard hosted its 2nd annual Make-A-Wish Southern Florida flavor contest!

Make-A-Wish Southern Florida grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. They asked Wish children to create and name their own ice cream flavors. Thirty Wish children submitted their recipes to Royal Scoop, and Royal Scoop Fort Myers Beach owner Wanda Linatsas and her staff narrowed that down to three finalists. They held the fundraiser on, appropriately enough, National Ice Cream Day on July 16, with the election from Noon to 6:15 p.m., when they announced the winner.

Finalists were 14-year-old Alex Mesa from Naples, who was defending his 2016 title for “Midnight Shadow” that featured vanilla ice cream with brownie bites and raspberry swirl. His 2017 recipe was “Oreo Splash” that had vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreos with a mixed-in strawberry swirl. Alex battles a circulatory system disease, and fulfilled his most heartfelt wish with a “behind the scenes” experience with The NFL Network.

Annabelle Phillips, a 12-year-old from Cape Coral, presented “Sweet & Salty Annabelle” with vanilla ice cream and caramel cups with a mixed-in caramel ribbon. Diagnosed with cancer, Annabelle swam with dolphins.

Jordan Strunk, a 9-years-old from Fort Myers, fights congenital anomalies, with his heartfelt wish to have his bedroom converted into a hospital emergency department theme. He created “The Funk Cookie” with cookie dough ice cream, cherries and a marshmallow fudge ribbon.

“Sweet & Salty Annabelle” won going away, with 67 votes to 41 for “Oreo Splash” and 27 for “The Funk Cookie,” but it was an interesting election! “Monitoring the vote was like watching a great horse race,” Wanda explains. “Both boys jumped out to the lead, then all of a sudden came a rush for ‘Sweet & Salty Annabelle’ that never let up. At one point, we all looked up at each other and just sort-of said, ‘Whoa!’”

My One & Only Creation

“This was my one and only creation,” said Annabelle with a huge smile! Flush with victory, Annabelle was unsure if she would defend her title in 2018. As for her heartfelt wish, she “swam with dolphins in Hawaii for about an hour three years ago. I love the water and dolphins so that was perfect!”

“Sweet & Salty Annabelle” ice cream is available at Royal Scoop for the next year, with 50% of its sales going to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, as did 50% of all proceeds on National Ice Cream Day; in 2016, the shop contributed $1,000. “We want to promote this better than last year,” Wanda explains, “by producing a poster with Annabelle to explain the fundraising aspect.”

royal scoop, make a wish event, natl ice cream day, fort myers beach
Royal Scoop Ice Cream, packed for the Make-A-Wish flavor vote

As for the competition, Wanda’s favorite was “Oreo Splash, and that is funny because when I first read the recipe, I didn’t think I would like it, then I thought, ‘maybe this will work,’ and now I love it.” As for her husband Dennis, “it was easy – ‘Sweet & Salty Annabelle’ all the way!”

Wanda and Dennis opened Royal Scoop five years ago, and wanted to partner with a local charity. “We talked about various organizations,” she says, “but we had a focus on Make-A-Wish. Then by chance I met Tammy Lynn, director of West Coast Operations for Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, at a Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce meeting several years ago, and said, ‘we have to talk!’” “Very quickly,” recalls Tammy, “we decided the only thing better than kids and ice cream together is Make-A-Wish kids and ice cream!” “Everything just clicked,” agreed Wanda. “This is perfect! Everyone at Make-A-Wish Southern Florida is so unselfish and amazing.”

Upcoming Make-A-Wish events include “Bingo & Boots” at the Dixie Roadhouse on Saturday, July 22, in Cape Coral, with bingo and a buffet dinner for $25-per-person from 4 to 7 p.m.; for information or tickets see The “Make-A-Wish Summer Social” is Wednesday, August 2, at the Make-A-Wish Office at 3655 Bonita Beach Road, Suite 3, Bonita Springs, 34134, from 4 to 7 p.m. Enjoy “Sweet and Salty Annabelle,” with RSVPs by Friday, July 28, to Taylor Marini at or at 239-992-9474. The “Walk For Wishes” 5K Walk / Run is Saturday, October 14; to enroll, see

Last year, Make-A-Wish Southern Florida fulfilled the most heartfelt wish of 72 children. The Southern Florida chapter grants a wish every 16 hours, totaling more than 11,000 since its 1983 inception, with their vision to make every eligible child’s wish come true. For information, call 239-992-9474 or visit “It’s all about the smiles on the faces of these kids,” says Wanda. “That makes everything worth it!”


Gary Mooney