Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Blog

Meet Taste Buds Kitchen

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 10:59 pm September 17, 2019

We caught up with Jessi Brelsford – the Founder and Chief Bud of Taste Buds Kitchen – a company specializing in creative and unique cooking events for kids and families and focused on connecting, learning and growing in the culinary playground of the kitchen. Their motto is “Learn, laugh, cook!” and that’s an attitude we can totally get behind!

Taste Buds Kitchen has been hosting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fundraisers since 2011 and their kid-driven bake sales have raised over $60,000 to fund new, less toxic cancer treatments for children. These bake sales are a stand out example of how kids can get directly involved in giving back and making an impact on the world around them. And the impact shows! So we wanted to learn more about how these little buds get it done…

How did you find out about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer?

I first learned about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer when I was just starting Taste Buds Kitchen. I volunteered to help seal cookie bags when the cookies were being made at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and met a lot of great people that day. I was excited to learn more.

What inspired you to host an event?

I immediately saw a way for our little budding chefs to give back by creating yummy treats and hosting bake sales to support this great effort. What could be better than kids helping kids!

I was so excited I even raised money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer by running a half marathon in Central Park years ago!

Tell us how you do it all! How do you and the kids prepare for your bake sales?

The Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale Starter Kit is very helpful! Then we tell the kids all about it and let our parents and neighbors know about the bake sale so that they can hopefully attend! Our neighboring tenants love our bake sales! They look forward to it every Thursday in the summer.

What’s your favorite part of hosting a fundraiser?

Everyone loves it! Our summer campers, our crew, and our parents. It’s such a worthwhile effort. In addition to helping children, it also teaches our campers so much.

What has been your biggest takeaway from it all?

I love giving back and helping others so it’s nice that this partnership has been a part of our business since the very early days. We were even included in your Best Bake Sale Cookbook!

It also feels so good to be able to help in a small way. The kids love it and their parents are really proud of them.

Cancer is such an awful disease and now that I’m a mother, I’m even more committed to helping this great organization.

Any fun anecdotes or stories to share that happened during a bake sale?

We ask for donations at our bake sale and one person gave us a $20 and asked for change and one of our campers gave them back $1. It was pretty funny, we all laughed.

Do you have plans to host any more fundraising events for Cookies?

Yes! Certainly. Every summer.

Ok, so we have to ask…what’s your favorite cookie?

Chocolate chip — you can’t beat it!

Thank you so much, Jessi! We love the enthusiasm and joy in these kids’ faces!

To learn more about how you or your small business can host your own bake sale or fundraiser, please reach out to us at events@beagoodcookie.org. We’d love to hear from you!

Meet Sarah Lee

We caught up with Sarah Lee who has been hosting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sales with her daughters for the last eight years and raised over $10,000.

We call Sarah Lee and her daughters our All-Stars – the very best of our #GoodCookies who are at the core of our mission to raise critical funds for pediatric cancer research.

We wanted to learn a little more about Sarah Lee, Ella and Rae and what motivates them to host their bake sales every year. Here Sarah Lee shares her wisdom and bake sale magic for others looking for a fun way to fundraise and involve kids in that very special project of giving back.

What inspired you to host a bake sale for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer? 

I was reading Parents magazine when my daughter Ella was two-years-old. I read the article by Gretchen Witt whose son Liam was battling pediatric cancer. I remember looking at little Ella sitting there singing along to Dora the Explorer and thinking that I couldn’t imagine the heartache a parent would feel when told by doctors that their child had cancer and may not survive. The thought of Ella not sitting there singing made me feel like we had to start helping. We started planning our first ever bake sale right then and there.  

Walk us through the steps you take when organizing a bake sale so that others reading this might be inspired to host a bake sale, too!  

First, my daughters and I pick our date for our bake sale which is always in September because it’s pediatric cancer awareness month and OXO has a donation matching program. 

We then start our advertising on social media. We continue to periodically put new things on the feed to keep folks interested and so that they don’t forget the date. 

We have stuck to the same menu for years, and it seems to work! We bake at least 13 dozen cookies (last year we had 16 dozen treats!) consisting of our classic heart sugar cookie with frosting, chocolate chip, iced oatmeal, oatmeal raisin, and snickerdoodle. 

A week prior we start laying out all of the bags and placing the Cookies logo stickers on them and grouping them by size. We start organizing our decorations (balloons that will need to be blown up, banners, posters, etc.) in order to see if new posters need to be made (we have been rained on in the past, and our advertising posters show it), or if any extra supplies need to be purchased. 

We always have coffee and lemonade, so we usually purchase the cups and supplies for that at this time. 

Three days before the event, we start baking the sugar cookies, because we make the dough from scratch, allowing them to cool and dry, frosting them, and letting them set so that they can be placed in the clear bags (these are our biggest fan favorite!). 

Then two days before the event we start baking all of the other cookies and placing them in bags. 

The (very early) morning of the event, we get the balloons inflated, make the coffee and lemonade, set up the tents and tables and decorate, get on our Cookies gear (shirts, aprons, and hats we had made), because we want to look official!

We post one last blast announcement on social media and wait for the guests! Once the event is over, we clean up and then add up all of our donations and let our community know how we did!

How did you find the process of working with the Cookies fundraising team to get you the support you needed to start? 

When we reached out to Cookies fundraising team for our first bake sale, they were so excited to help us get started. The team is so helpful and goes out of their way to make it easier for us to have a successful bake sale. They offer support and guidance through email and they even talk to us one-on-one to answer any questions we may have. They are very encouraging and reached out to us several times during our planning phase to see if we needed anything.

What surprised you the most about hosting a bake sale?  

We decided to have a bake sale shortly after we had moved to our home in the Chicago suburbs and we didn’t know a lot of people yet. Even though I was on the neighborhood Facebook page, there weren’t that many folks that knew us yet, so I was worried that even if I posted our event, there might not be a big turnout. There were so many nice people that I did meet that had lived there for many years that were gracious enough to get our event out there for us in their circle of friends and the word got out!  We sold out so quickly and had more donations than we ever could have expected, and people still came to donate even after all the cookies were gone!

What was your biggest takeaway or learning moment?  

There are so many families that are touched by pediatric cancer in one way or another…we met a nurse in our neighborhood that is an oncology nurse who actually provides treatment to pediatric cancer patients. We also met neighbors who have lost loved ones or who are currently battling cancer. This disease is affecting families everywhere, and it needs to stop.

How do you feel you’ve changed from the experience of hosting a fundraiser to raise funds for critical pediatric cancer research?  

My family has definitely become more thankful that we have one another. We definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when we mail in our donations to Cookies, and we get tears of joy when we hear of children that are surviving thanks to a treatment that was funded by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

My daughter Ella writes for a local publication called Front Porch Living and has even had two articles published regarding Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in an effort to raise awareness for the organization and pediatric cancer. Giving back has become a big part of all of our lives.

We have to ask…what’s your favorite cookie to bake?

Our heart sugar cookies, because there’s so much time spent together making them from start to finish and at the end, they’re yummy and beautiful!

Thank you so much, Sarah Lee, Ella and Rae! You inspire us so much.

Are you looking to host your own bake sale or fundraiser? Click here to sign up!

A letter to my son Liam on his 15th birthday…

Filed under: Birthdays,Good Cookies,Tough Cookies — The Good Cookies @ 12:00 pm May 10, 2019

 

Happy Birthday to my one and only Liam –

Today, you should be turning 15 years old. On the cusp of getting your first summer job and of learning to drive, I should be chasing you down in a whole different way than I once did as you slalomed down the sidewalk weaving in and out of people on your beloved orange scooter. You should have spring fever, counting the days to summer and sleeping in. You should be breaking hearts with your charm, irresistibly cute smile, and big dreams for what most certainly would be the brightest future.

Just a few weeks ago, all of your preschool friends made their final decisions about which high school (HIGH SCHOOL) they plan to attend. They were considering if they wanted to focus on art, sciences or sports magnets based on where their interests have taken them. As I heard the flutter of nervousness from their parents and watched reality set in for this new, exciting chapter for your friends, it took my breath away once again that you aren’t here with us, ready to jump into another life adventure.

Even after 8 years, I cannot believe you aren’t here. You are forever 6, nearly 7, and our guitar-playing, cake baking, science loving, scooter-riding boy. I wonder often if by now you would be into race cars or product design, like your dad. Or would you love words and writing like me? I imagine you would love a little of everything we all do. I know beyond a doubt you would take the greatest joy in cheering on your sister as she racks up ribbon upon ribbon for her horseback riding.

On your birthday, what we miss the most is simply YOU. And on this day, we will feel a little sadder than usual. But the promise we made to you – that we would do all we could to make it better for others – is the one we keep all the days of the year. We work to inspire people to Be a Good Cookie – to do something fun to help kids. And we work to make sure the dollars are going to the very best research because you would hold us to that standard of excellence.  And our wish – a birthday wish in your honor – is for every child diagnosed with cancer to reach their 15th birthday…and 16th, 17th, 18th…until they live all their days, living all their dreams.

Each day with you was a gift and forever would have never been enough. So now we are working to give everyone else the gift of time they so desperately deserve.

I love you, Liam. And not a second goes by that Daddy, Ella and I don’t miss you. We love you to the sun, and moon, and all the stars in the universe…and back again.

Love & Kisses,

Mommy 

 

To make a donation in honor of Liam, please donate here.

To send Love Like Liam Lemon Sugar Cookies, order here.

 

 

 

 

Liam’s Birthday

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 12:04 pm May 13, 2018

Once again, Liam’s birthday and Mother’s Day fall on the same day.

It always leaves me in a state of confusion when it happens and I never quite know how or what to feel. Liam is the child who made me a mommy. He inducted me into the glory of motherhood. From the instant I laid eyes on him, I knew that being a mother would be the most important thing I would do in my lifetime. Period. Full stop. And after he was diagnosed and our world turned upside down, the instinct to protect him kicked into hyper overdrive.

It was four years of living with sheer adrenaline and all senses on full alert. At some point I realized that Liam and I had spent so much time together that we had moved past the need to use words. All we had to do was look at each other to know what the other was thinking or feeling.

But being that close meant I had to be very careful to not let him see the vice grip of fear squeezing my heart. It was a constant struggle to remain calm in the midst of sheer terror. Protecting him through that odyssey also meant protecting his innocence so that he could have the space to be a child.

I did everything I could possibly think of to try to protect that innocence, as ridiculous as that sounds. I have to think it’s the reason he had the audacity as a stage 4 Cancer Patient to slalom on a bright orange scooter through the hospital corridors.

Today, as Ella charts new territory I should have gone through with Liam first, I can’t help but still feel incredibly blessed to have such an amazing child who is the only thing that can soothe my broken heart. Watching her grow up is something I never take for granted. And having her love me is such a powerful medicine. Life is a gift. 

– Gretchen Witt

What Valentine’s Day Means To Us – A Legacy of Love

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 2:43 am February 14, 2018

January 24th marked seven years since Liam Witt’s battle with cancer came to an end. On Valentine’s Day 2011, more than 1,000 people gathered at a cathedral in New York City to celebrate the life of Liam Witt, the inspiration behind the Good Cookie movement. While cancer cut his life short, Liam’s LOVE for people, for living, and for life has become his true, enduring legacy.

Liam Witt

Love Inspired Action…

Just 2 ½-years-old when diagnosed, Liam’s parents, Larry and Gretchen Witt, quickly learned of the lack of treatment options for pediatric cancers.  When his oncologist shared, “It’s not science that’s holding us back, it’s funding,” they knew they had to take action. But first, Liam had to be ushered through months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Throughout the process, his bravery and compassion continued to inspire his parents. When he was declared to have no evidence of disease, they began to think of how to help other children.

The 2007 holiday season was approaching as Gretchen and Larry thought of ways to raise funds for a promising new treatment. They realized they needed something so sweet and comforting that it would conquer the fear associated with pediatric cancer. The answer? Cookies. With the help of 250 volunteers, Gretchen and Larry baked and sold 96,000 cookies – in person, online, any way possible – to raise funds. That original “bake sale” raised more than $420,000. Before long, people began reaching out asking, “What can I do to help?”

Photo Jan 24, 2 35 06 PM

A Transcending Love…

Reaching far beyond his family, Liam’s love knew no boundaries. Though he battled cancer off and on for nearly four years, he had special relationships with everyone he encountered, from doctors, nurses and teachers, to the firefighters of Engine 1/Ladder 24, the station he passed on his way home from school or treatments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

He called the firefighters his “guys,” and made sure they all knew he loved them. And they weren’t afraid to show their love in return. In their station, they gave Liam his own locker, suit and helmet. On January 24, 2011, Liam’s battle came to an end. Suddenly, the numbers of his beloved Engine 1/Ladder 24 took on a special meaning.

For his Valentine’s Day memorial service,  an entire street in New York City was closed off as Liam’s “guys” honored him with a hero’s farewell. The message that day was to Love Like Liam. Today, his locker at the firehouse still serves as a reminder of that message.

- Liam Witt gets a hero s farewell YouTube

A Legacy of Love…

Liam’s love continues to inspire us and people everywhere. Since 2008, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has granted nearly $15 million, funding 100 research projects, including 37 that are now treatments available for children battling cancer TODAY. 

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer isn’t just about Liam. It’s not about one type of cancer. It’s about every child, everywhere. Every child deserves a fighting chance. As long as there are treatments sitting on shelves waiting for funding, we’ll be fighting to move them forward. This year, we hope you’ll be inspired to join us in sharing the love. To learn more about how you can Be a Good Cookie and help fund new, improved, and less toxic treatments for childhood cancer, visit www.cookiesforkidscancer.org

Hillary Waldeisen, Good Cookie since 2013 

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 10:24 pm February 7, 2018
“I did my first fundraising event for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in 2013. I got involved with Cookies because I appreciated the fact that not only do they support all pediatric cancer diagnoses, they utilize every dollar to the fullest. These were both very important things for me as I learned how underfunded research was once Lucy was diagnosed. I wanted to do something to change that and decided partnering with Cookies was a good match. When Lucy was first diagnosed in 2009, our friends did multiple fundraisers for our family, one of which was a Dodgeball Tournament. I figured it was a fun event, something that was unique for our community, and something many could participate in. It was a big success the first time and so I hoped it would be when I started doing it for Cookies. And I was right.
 
Our community loves the event and supporting our kids with cancer. The support means more to me than I can express in words. Not only the support our family received when Lucy was diagnosed, but the support for our cause. People want to be part of something that is meaningful, and I feel like this has been a venue for people for years now. A piece of advice for other Cookies supporters: utilize the connections and staff at Cookies, as that is what they want! I didn’t utilize for quite a few years and it caused a lot of headache and extra work on my part. I appreciate the support I have received and that has been offered to me.” – Hillary Waldeisen, Good Cookie since 2013 
To learn more about our mission and all of the ways you can ‘Be a Good Cookie’, visit cookiesforkidscancer.org!

Sharing the Love with L’Oréal

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 3:40 pm February 5, 2018

On Valentine’s Day 2012, for the first time ever, the passionate employees of L’Oréal began a tradition of hosting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sales at offices across the country. They were inspired by their most recent L’Oréal Woman of Worth – the 2011 National honoree Gretchen Witt who was recognized for her commitment to funding new, less toxic therapies for children battling cancer. That first year, 11 L’Oréal offices hosted bake sales. Since then, the total has grown to 50 bake sales in 25 different offices from California to New Jersey. And the funds raised now total nearly $75,000.

In December, Gretchen was once again honored by L’Oréal when she was given the Karen T. Fondu Impact Award. And that moment – combined with the kick off of our 10th anniversary year throughout 2018 – made this partnership even more special.

And now, the Good Cookies of L’Oréal are rolling up their sleeves again to continue the support over the last seven years by hosting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer events this February! Together, we can make February a month full of community, gratitude, and HOPE for kids battling cancer. THANK YOU, L’Oréal Good Cookies!

To learn more about our mission and all of the ways you can ‘Be a Good Cookie’, visit cookiesforkidscancer.org!

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer in Simon Malls!

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 8:03 pm February 2, 2018

Check out the following Simon Mall locations to see #Cookies4Kids in the spotlight!

Didn’t see a location near you? You can still give back by sending cookies in honor of ‘Tough Cookies’ everywhere who are battling, or have battled cancer. As always, 100% of proceeds from each box sold directly benefits promising childhood cancer research. What could be sweeter? Click here to order special cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

Sue Ananian, Good Cookie Since 2008

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 8:47 pm January 30, 2018

“My favorite memories of the bake sales are really just how amazing it is that every year the community pulls together to help us out with this awesome event.  I never have to worry about having enough bakers or enough people and kids to pull the wagons every year.  Everyone just shows up. They all want to be a part of something that is so meaningful and worthwhile. It’s really become a community wide event and people around here know and love to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Every year we have people who come to the event and remember us year to year…this year will be out 8th year raising money at the local tournament in town and we plan to continue it for as long as the tournament is around.

It’s because of Cookies that I have an opportunity to do something that makes us feel so fulfilled. Once, my sister was tirelessly walking the lacrosse fields in the heat holding a picture of Gretchen and Liam asking for donations in exchange for baked goods… and Gretchen shows up at the event! My whole family has really gotten behind us in our support of CFKC. Not just my kids, but my sister and her family, my Parents, my cousin, my Aunt.  They show up every year without fail! It’s a long exhausting weekend in the sun and heat but no one backs away.”

 – Sue Ananian, Good Cookie since 2008

Thanksgiving To Us

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 3:41 pm November 23, 2017

It was 10 years ago this week that my husband Larry shared this message on Thanksgiving day from our family.

It is impossible to believe how much has changed in the time since – and how much remains the same. The most glaring change from that day: we are facing our 7th Thanksgiving without the physical presence of our Liam. That seems unimaginable – unfathomable – and impossible that we’ve survived this long with such broken hearts. But his spirit is with us each and every day. We feel it in the moments of meeting someone new, of discovering beauty in nature, of learning something we knew nothing about before. His spirit carries us through the darkest moments and reminds us of life’s simplest joys. We remain thankful for these gifts.

As Larry describes in the post, Ella’s joy and love continue to carry us forward as she blossoms into a young woman we are both delighted to know and proud to call our own. Her passion for horses – born out of the recommendation of a grief counselor back in 2011 to help her reckon with the loss of her brother – is a love we will follow wherever it takes, from weekend rides to national competitions.

But the thing that most strikingly remains the same ten years later is our call to action. We had no idea on that Thanksgiving 10 years ago that we would go on to launch a national non-profit, bearing the same name as that holiday cookie drive. We had no idea at that moment that our dream to sell all our cookies that holiday would exceed all expectations. And we had no idea of the support that would come from YOU – those reading this post right now – in the decade since that has led to nearly $15 million in research funding (and counting).

Despite heartbreak and loss, we remain thankful – for you, for your support, for your love of Liam and our family, and most importantly for your shared love of ALL children of the world. And, inspired by your support, we remain laser focused on doing all we can to raise awareness and funds for new research to help beat back the #1 disease killer of children in our country. But we cannot do this alone. We still ask – go to our website, still www.cookiesforkidscancer.org to send cookies OR to register to host an event this holiday season. We ask that you give in honor of all the children – both the healthy ones you know and the ones fighting for their lives in battles they shouldn’t face.

We have so much to share – so much lies ahead for the organization and for research. And we wouldn’t want to do it without you by our sides.

With gratitude and hope,

Gretchen, Larry, Ella & always in the spirit of Liam

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