Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Blog

Meet Sarah Lee

Filed under: Bake Sale,blog,childhood cancer research,Events,Good Cookies — Tags: , , , — The Good Cookies @ 6:06 pm September 17, 2019

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!

No Time to Wait: Government Shutdown & the Reality of Childhood Cancer

Filed under: blog,Good Cookies,Inspire — Tags: , , , , — The Good Cookies @ 2:35 pm October 15, 2013

As the shutdown further slows childhood cancer advancements, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer founder, Gretchen Holt-Witt speaks out:

As the Founder of a national pediatric cancer nonprofit, I didn’t really expect the current government shutdown to bring awareness to the cause I champion. But then, The Atlantic ran a story on October 1, heralding the “saddest paragraph of the government shutdown.”

Cookies for Kids' Cancer, Op-Ed Letter from Gretchen Holt-Witt on Government ShutdownThe article revealed that, due to the shutdown, 30 children per week scheduled for clinical trials (many of which have cancer) at the National Institutes of Health would not receive treatment. Why? Because the NIH is federally funded, and over 75% of its services are now closed due to the shutdown. So you’re saying that kids’ lives are hanging in the balance due to lack of government funds? Readers were irate – With blood boiling, they found this fact to be entirely unacceptable. But it wasn’t news to me.

Annually, less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget goes towards research for all childhood cancers combined, which happens to be the #1 disease killer of children in our country. Flip that stat around – over 96% of national funding goes towards adult cancers, leaving our nation’s future and most precious resource with not nearly enough funding for adequate innovation. So are we sitting around, boiling mad, waiting for the government to provide more funds for children? Not for one second.

In 2007, when our 2-year-old son Liam was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, our oncologist told us, “Kids with cancer don’t make headlines.”

That same day, the headlines were filled with news of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow’s cancer diagnosis. Mr. Snow made headlines because he had lived long enough to make a difference in the world. Tragically, children do not have the opportunity to make that impact when they are saddled with a cancer diagnosis. Hence, the lack of headlines featuring kids.

Soon after Liam’s diagnosis, my husband and I learned of a promising new therapy in development at the very same cancer center where Liam was receiving treatment. Only one problem: it needed funding to move from the research lab to the clinic where it would be administered to children. That was the moment we learned there is simply not enough funding from the government to move all research along. And so the cancer center – filled with some of the top oncologists in the world – was depending on individuals and small foundations to fill the gap to help make the potentially life-saving treatment available for children.

My husband and I could not stand by, waiting for government funding. We also refused to wait for others to raise the money. Instead, we started a foundation called Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Our simple mission: to inspire individuals to “Be a Good Cookie™” and raise funds for childhood cancer research.

In five short years, our grassroots supporters that hail from all 50 states and over 4,500 cities world-wide have rolled up their sleeves, raised funds, and ultimately helped fund more than three dozen research projects, with half a dozen now in clinical trials.

Our sense of urgency remains driven by the fact that in August of 2011, we learned that the same promising research in need of funding that sprung us to action was being moved into clinical trial. Our funding helped. It was a small victory in a huge battle. But the taste of success was bittersweet, as it came just 7 months after we lost our precious Liam to this cruel, relentless disease. The treatment that we worked for came to be – just a bit too late for him. We never want another family to feel our endless sense of loss combined with the aching knowledge of what might have been.

So back to those 30 children making headlines while we wait for the federal government . . . if writing a check from funds raised by supporters of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer would help, I would do it right now. As a matter of fact, we tried to cover the cost of treatments for those children. But it’s the federal government, so it’s not quite that simple.

While we cannot open the doors of the NIH for those children, we do not have to sit around and wait for our government to play nicely – like we encourage our children to do. Instead, we must take action. And we’re asking you to do what you can to get involved today. Because no matter what, our headline remains the same: BE A GOOD COOKIE.™

Gretchen Holt-Witt – Founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer