Cheesy meal to help Shawnee raise money for Make-A-Wish

The college student aims to wow and connect with the audience on March 6, the same aspiration he's had for all shows.

Doing a card spring, Jake Strong’s excitement grows for the March 6 fundraiser show at Shawnee High School. The  magician hopes to connect with the audience and raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (Krystal Nurse/ The Sun).

Ever find a dollar in your macaroni and cheese?

Jake Strong is the likely culprit.

“I made it up myself and it’s where a dollar bill ends up in the cheese packet of the box,” the self-taught magician explained of his mac and cheese ruse. “I really like that one because it has evolved many, many ways in the past year and I counted it the other day. I made 75 changes to the trick in the past two years.

“I love it and it brought me to Las Vegas.”

A cheesy presence will be felt at Shawnee High School’s auditorium March 6 as Strong’s show raises money — in conjunction with the school’s Make-A-Wish Club — for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

With the club’s annual goal of topping the previous year’s total, Strong hopes his show helps them shatter it. He raised $9,200 in 2019 — the largest single fundraiser in Shawnee history.

Strong’s performances with mac and cheese originated at Neeta School in Medford Lakes, but transitioned to Shawnee as the audience grew exponentially — from 200 to 600 people, to be exact.

Seeing the presale tickets go up every single day (last year) was amazing,” Strong shared. “The fact that many people want to support Make-A-Wish is amazing. I hope to sell out all 900 seats, but I’m aiming for 700.

Macaroni and cheese led Strong to Vegas, where he was in the same dressing room as Frank Sinatra Jr. Strong gave the trick the Vegas treatment in amping up the props and visuals to make it bigger and truer to who Strong is as a person.

I don’t care if people are or aren’t fooled by what I do,” Strong admitted. “I don’t care if they can figure out what I’m doing, but my story is, I want people to come together and be inspired, have a fun time and learn to be themselves.

“I’ve learned a lot from just being myself in college and with magic.”

The freshman Temple University student said his shows differ from the rest because he doesn’t use audience members as props. Instead, when people come up to him, he learns  their stories and who they are.

Children receive the special treatment by sitting “criss-cross applesauce” in the center of the stage. Strong talks to the kids and learns about them before doing tricks.

Any magician will be asked how he or she does tricks, and Strong, like many others, refuses to tell, leaving people to learn for themselves.

But it’s not always what it seems.

When people ask me how I do it, it’s always, ‘You never know how I do it,’” Strong said. “It’s quite simple when you think about it, but I do it a little bit different for everyone else.”

Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at JakeStrongMagic.com/Fundraiser. Donations may be made at the website, or at Shawnee the night of the show, cash only.