Cakes For Kids, a volunteer organization that makes birthday cakes for children who otherwise would not have one, including for children in care, was recently honoured with a Premier’s Volunteer Service Award.
The idea began with a simple cake-decorating class.
In 2017, co-founder Christy Rogowski was making so many cakes in her class that they began piling up in the freezer and she didn’t know what to do with them.
“Christy was finding that you have all the excess cake from practising,” says Wendy Singleton, who launched Cakes for Kids with Rogowski.
Rogowski wondered if she could donate her cakes and found several organizations in California and the U.K. that provided cakes for children who might not otherwise receive them. Singleton and Rogowski decided to create a similar organization and began talking to the numerous community groups Singleton volunteered for, and to Debbie Smith, a volunteer co-ordinator at Winnipeg CFS, about whether CFS might take part. From there, the pair started a Facebook page and had a soft launch over the 2017 August long weekend.
“We shared it with friends and said we were looking for volunteers. Over that weekend we had 20 people filling out our volunteer application forms,” says Singleton. Their website motto read: “Cakes for Kids Winnipeg believes that every child deserves a birthday cake.”
Two years later, Cakes’ volunteer number skyrocketed from 20 to more than 120 volunteer bakers across Winnipeg. To date, Cakes for Kids has delivered more than 500 cakes across the city, including more than 100 for children in care at WCFS.
The success of Cakes for Kids prompted a Premier’s Volunteer Service Award in the Community Category at the 36th Annual Volunteer Awards this past spring.
The nomination said that Singleton and Rogowski, along with their volunteers, “bake cakes for kids across the city who would otherwise not receive one. Since 2017, [Cakes for Kids] has been bringing smiles and sweetness to kids in care with WCFS, because every child, regardless of their circumstances, deserves a cake for their birthday.”
Singleton humbly says they just “had a good idea and we acted on it.” She applauds all of the volunteers. “It’s a great surprise and it brings a little bit more recognition to our volunteers, so it’s nice.”
Cakes for Kids also works with other community organizations including Rossbrook House, Wahbung Abinoojiiag, Together in Elmwood and the North End Family Centre to take cake requests.
Screening for which children receive cakes is done entirely by the organizations involved, says Singleton, which ensures cakes go only to deserving kids. Those requesting cakes fill out an online form.
Volunteers can sign up to bake three, six or 12 cakes a year and many also honour allergy or nut-free requests. Some are homemakers, says Singleton, while others are teachers, university students and mother and daughter groups. “We even have whole family teams where the whole family gets involved down to the delivery.” Singleton adds that several of the bakers were former children in care who received cakes themselves.
Cakes can range from “wild giant creations to what your home baker would do.” Some are number cakes covered in Smarties, while others feature fondant cars and flowers. A basketball fan received a cake that looked like it had a jersey draped over it. A child who was a Jets fan received a cake with a fondant sculpture of herself on top.
Singleton and Rogowski value their volunteers and feel that volunteers get a lot out of the process.
“It varies from baker to baker. We have some people who for their family, finances were a struggle or they were in care themselves, and now they have the means and talent to put them together for kids. They can really appreciate what it could bring to that family.”
Singleton says Cakes has also received many affirming reports from social workers. “They are not in an easy position. This is something for them to share that is really positive and help celebrate with the families.”
And for children who receive them, she says,“Your world can feel very small sometimes. It can mean a lot that somebody out there cares enough about you to put this together.”
For more information: cakesforkidswinnipeg.com/.