Longhorn Feature Twirler Aidyn Mentry bakes for a cause

Zoe Tzanis and Kaiya Little 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Jan 21, 2022 flipbook.

Standing on sunny Emerald Isle Beach in North Carolina, her toes covered in sand, young Aidyn Mentry caught a glimpse of something aglow in the distance — a glistening baton rocketing into the sky, arcing and falling perfectly into the hands of a nearby twirler.  

While she didn’t understand the activity taking place before her, the second-grader decided it was going to change her life forever. 

“Mom, whatever that sparkly thing is, that’s it,” Mentry said. “That’s what I want to do.”

Ten years later, Mentry — the self-described Swarovski crystal disco ball of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — said she is honored to serve as UT’s 34th Feature Twirler. However, beneath her sequin-studded uniform, the advertising freshman continues to shine brighter than ever, committed to making change in her community through Aidyn’s Caring Cookies, her small business dedicated to charity.

After that pivotal beach day, Mentry devoted herself to learning and improving her baton skills, hoping to one day twirl at the collegiate level. When her dream came true and she took her first steps onto the field as UT’s Feature Twirler, she said her face paled with fear.

“Nothing can prepare you for when you think you have 100,000 eyes on you,” Mentry said “You’re standing there alone, you and a drum major, covered head-to-toe in rhinestones.”

Despite her trepidation, Mentry said she took a deep breath, thought about the thousands of people supporting her from burnt orange stands, and lurched forward, giving those 100,000 eyes the best performance she could. Taking on the role as a UT icon at only 18, her showmanship and confidence impressed former Feature UT Twirler and coach, Whitney Coons.

“In band, cheer or pom, leadership positions are for juniors and seniors,” Coons said. “It’s a lot to throw on a freshman. She took everything in stride. It’s a credit to her maturity.”

Away from the field, Mentry also finds joy in her second love: baking. Introduced early to the world of cocoa powder and mixing bowls by her mother, a baker herself, Mentry said she practically grew up with a whisk in hand.

“There’s photos of me as a toddler, stirring a mixing bowl and simultaneously having my entire face covered in chocolate cake batter,” Mentry said. “I’ve been baking since I could remember.”

In second grade, Mentry said her mother inspired her to use her baking talents for a noble cause — a communitywide bake sale to raise money for breast cancer research in honor of a struggling neighbor and family friend. 

“I liked having (Aidyn) know that you can make a big difference, anyone can, and you can do it (by) doing something that you love,” said Aidyn’s mother, Carla Mentry. “If you like baking, you can turn that into a way to help others.”

While the initial sale didn’t raise the amount Mentry had hoped for, soon enough, she found herself catering weddings and shipping her baked goods across the country. After 12 years of business, Mentry said she raised nearly $40,000 for breast cancer research through Susan G. Komen.

Whenever she gets the chance, Mentry said she switches out her sequined uniform for a flour-caked apron and gets back to business. Over winter break, she dedicated her baked goods to raising $2,000 for a new cause — Saint Louise House, an Austin nonprofit that supports women and children experiencing homelessness.

“I get to bake and have a role in someone else’s life,” Mentry said. “It’s cool I get to be a part of these milestone opportunities for other people. I want to make a sweet bite-sized impact on the world.”