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.
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Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Student Fires Police Officer’s Handgun On Northern Virginia School Bus
A student accidentally shot a police officer’s handgun on a Northern Virginia school bus on Monday. Four students were on the bus at the time, along with the police officer, the bus driver and a bus aide, and no one was hurt. (via Huffington Post)
Bed rest during pregnancy could worsen risk for premature birth, study shows
New research is raising fresh concern that an age-old treatment for troubled pregnancies – bed rest – doesn’t seem to prevent premature birth, and might even worsen that risk. (via Fox News)
Video Game to Help Kids Fight Cancer
Re-Mission 2 is a collection of six free online games–accessible via Web browser or Apple iPad–that share the theme of taking the fight to cancer. They do this by arming patients with a virtual arsenal of chemo, radiation and targeted cancer drug attacks designed to crush advancing malignant forces. (via Yahoo News)
Philadelphia doctor guilty of murdering infants in late-term abortions
A Philadelphia abortion doctor was found guilty on Monday of murdering three babies during late-term abortions at a clinic serving low-income women. (via Yahoo News)
Buena Vista School District Officially Closes For Year, Offers ‘Skills Camp’
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For the 400 or so students in Buena Vista, Mich., school is over, even though the academic year isn’t supposed to end until the middle of June. Instead, they will likely attend “skills camp.” (via Huffington Post)
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Monday, April 29th, 2013
As parents we understand a love too deep for words to capture;
a love so immense, it physically hurts sometimes. We know what it feels like to forget about our own fears to protect our children. But every year, thousands of children face a battle that their parents cannot fight for them.
“I vowed, as all fathers do, to protect my child at all costs and I was not able to. I tried so hard and fought with so much hope and it just was not enough. I am not one who accepts failure and will keep getting up, trying again and again, harder each time. But how I get up from this loss and continue to fight I do not know. What am I fighting for when I have already lost what is unimaginable and immeasurable?” These are the words of Larry Witt in a letter to his son Liam who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 6 years old.
Pediatric cancer is the most common cause of death by disease for children and adolescents in the United States. According to The America Childhood Cancer Organization, approximately 13,400 children between the ages of birth and 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year.
Like so many other children, little Liam was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the nervous system, on February 26th, 2007. For the next four years, Liam’s parents helplessly watched their son endure surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and antibody treatments in the fight for his life.
On her website CookiesForKidsCancer.org, Liam’s mom, Gretchen, writes: “On this odyssey, we have learned that pediatric cancer robs families of more children than any other disease. We learned about the vast disparity between funding for pediatric cancer and other cancers. We learned of the lack of interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies to invest research and development dollars in treatments and cures. And after we learned all of these shocking facts, we decided to do something about it.”
Cookies For Kids Cancer is a non-profit organization created by Liam’s parents dedicated to funding the development of new and better treatments. Gretchen and Larry got to work after finding that all types of pediatric cancers collectively receive less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s multi-billion dollar budget. With the help of 250 volunteers, Gretchen baked and sold 96,000 cookies in her first larger-than-life bake sale raising over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. Through their bake sales and events, CFKC has raised over $6 million in just over four years.
An extension of the movement and a book for those inspired to hold their own bake sales, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: All the Good Cookies, is a cookbook/manual/inspirational guide-hybrid that includes everything from delicious cookie recipes, clever packaging points and hosting tips, to 50-PLUS bake-sale success stories and creative ideas that reach beyond baking to a ladies-night-out-with-a-cause or a carwash. All author proceeds from the book go directly to CFKC.
CFKC has given parents the power to join their children in the fight for their lives.
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You can pick up your copy of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: All the Good Cookies when it hits stores on April 30th. You can also create a giving page, purchase cookies, and find many other ways to help at CookiesForKidsCancer.org.
Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
Nearly 13,000 kids under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer every year and, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO), nearly 25 percent of kids diagnosed per year will not survive the disease. This is why September is dedicated as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Even though President Obama’s proclamation this year revealed that ongoing research and treatment has led to outstanding progress (the five-year survival rate for all childhood cancers has increased from less than 50 percent to 80 percent over the past several decade), there is still much work to be done.
Below are ways to learn more about the disease and to engage with affected communities:
More information about childhood cancer can be found on Parents.com:
Image: Awareness Ribbon – Bone, via Shutterstock
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