Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Sometimes a cookie is more than just a cookie. When Gretchen Holt-Witt’s son Liam was diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2007 she realized how underfunded children’s cancer research is. To raise money she organized a giant bake sale – baking and selling a whopping 96,000 cookies. That initial fundraiser proved to be so successful that Gretchen and her husband launched the non-profit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Since then thousands of people across the country have chosen to “Be a Good Cookie,” raising money to fund research and treatment. Although Liam passed away in 2011 at age 6, Gretchen continues the mission of Cookies for Kids Cancer and has just published her second cookbook, All the Good Cookies, packed with more than 60 mouth-watering recipes. Author proceeds benefit Cookies for Kids Cancer.
Q: How many American children are diagnosed with cancer each year?
A: There are approximately 13,000 new diagnoses each year, and any point in time there are tens of thousands of children in treatment. But pediatric cancer receives less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget.
Q: Tell me about the original 96,000 cookies.
A: Liam was cancer-free at the time, and I was so grateful that he was cancer-free, but I kept hearing the voice of his oncologist who said to me that nobody cares about kids with cancer, and there just isn’t enough funding. The holidays were coming up, and people are always looking for homemade baked treats. I decided to get friends together to bake cookies, but I wanted to really push my boundaries. I started calculating … and the number 8,000 dozen came into my head.
So I made this goal, and it was much harder than I expected. It was this crazy experience. We had more than 250 volunteers, most of whom I didn’t know. It was supposed to be a nine-day baking event. But all of the ovens in the kitchen broke so it ended up being 17 or 18 days under very trying circumstances. But failure was not an option. We sold all of the cookies.
When it was over my husband and I realized that this wasn’t just a holiday thing. Cookies for Kids Cancer officially launched in September 2008. Since then we’ve had nearly 5,000 events in 50 states and 15 countries. A lot of events are bake sales, but some are garage sales, bowling tournaments, or races.
Q: After Liam passed away did it occur to you to stop?
A: I think about it all the time. I’ve become incensed at the lack of funding available, just disappointed that this is the state of our affairs. But then the reason I never give up is that I know when I see Liam again he will look at me and say, “Mommy what did you do to make it better for others?” And that would be his expectation, and I can’t let him down.
Q: Why cookies and not, say, pies or cakes?
A: It is hard to cut a pie neatly! Cake, also, is difficult to cut and serve on a napkin. Cookies are just universal. They’re fun and they’re wholesome. Plus, with baking there is a sense of sharing, a sense of community. I couldn’t take out my stand mixer without Liam pulling up a chair and standing next to me. He totally loved cooking and baking.
Q: What makes this book special?
A: Because it’s based on love. If you page through the book you’ll see more than 40 profiles of event hosts of all ages from across the country. It’s so inspiring. The recipes are awesome, simple to make, with no complicated ingredients. And all the author proceeds go back to charity.
Q: Are there one or two cookies that are especially fun to make with kids?
A: I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be good to make with kids, although the Rainbow Sables are particularly great. The Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies have only five ingredients. They’re so quick to make; you get almost immediate results.
Q: Which are your favorite cookies in this book?
A: The Faux Re-os and the Speculaas. I could just sit there with a feed basket on and eat. But there are so many.
Q: How much money has Cookies for Kids Cancer raised?
A: Over $5 million in just under five years. Seven of the projects we’ve funded have become treatments that children are receiving. But, it’s not enough. There’s no resting on our laurels.
Q: Why is it so important for grassroots groups like yours to contribute to fighting pediatric cancer?
A: The thing I find so dumbfounding is that we’re actually making an impact. I didn’t think that me and my girlfriends could do something that would help fund a treatment that would be amazing in a couple of years. How is it that easy?
Q: What can the average mom do to help support this cause?
A: Make the decision to get involved—in whatever way is best for them. The reality is that every dollar counts. You never know what research holds. But you know one thing: nothing happens unless there’s funding.Add a Comment