Whether it’s chocolate, angel food, or rainbow sprinkled, a birthday cake is pretty much a necessity when celebrating someone’s special day.
But as Lisa Ray and Patty McTighe of Bowling Green, Ky. realized, not every kid enjoys the privilege of receiving this annual confection. So they started Celebration Cakes Ministry, using the kitchen of First Baptist Church to provide low-income children with personalized cakes for their birthdays.
Ray and McTighe aren’t professional bakers; everything they needed to know about decorating cakes, they learned from Internet videos and trial-and-error. In less than a year, they’ve already baked and delivered 140 cakes, all the while leading a group of 20 dedicated volunteers who meet several times a week.
Each cake is customized for its recipient, incorporating the child’s favorite characters, colors, or activities. (Check out the group’s Facebook page for photos of some of their whimsical creations, featuring such kid favorites as Elsa from “Frozen,” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Elmo.)
Celebration Cakes learns about deserving local youngsters from social workers, schools and other organizations that work with needy children. “These kids, some of them are going through a hard time, and just one little thing like a cake can brighten their day, and that’s what makes it worth it,” Ray tells Laurel Wilson of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
These volunteers’ unique efforts are already gaining notice. Volunteers in Action gave Celebration Cakes the Rookie Volunteer award and Western Kentucky University named it the 2014 Emerging Nonprofit Organization of the Year.
As much as the cakes brighten the children’s birthdays, they make the volunteers happy, too. Cynthia Jones started baking after watching the Celebration Cakes crew enjoy themselves as they worked. “Once I started,” she tells Wilson, “I was hooked. It brings back childhood memories of playing with Play-Doh. I love it, because when I was a child…I can’t remember having a birthday party. I just think even if kids cannot afford a cake, they deserve to have a cake they like.”