How an illustrator makes room for children to see themselves
For Kentucky kids in need, a special birthday cake can be a ‘sweet blessing’
LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Every child should be made to feel special on his or her birthday. That’s the philosophy behind Sweet Blessings, a Lexington, Kentucky-based organization that bakes, decorates, and delivers birthday cakes to children who are living in poverty, have a life-threatening illness, or have special needs.
Sweet Blessings’ cakes are no ordinary confections. Children are nominated by school counselors or social workers. The nominators provide some background info on the children’s favorite things. This allows the Sweet Blessings team to design a custom cake featuring something that the recipient really loves, like a favorite movie, book, or video game character.
Founder Ashley Gann said Sweet Blessings first cake was delivered in February 2011. That year, the organization made cakes for 163 children. In 2018, the number of cakes jumped to more than 2,600.
Today, Sweet Blessings serves children in Fayette County and the surrounding area in central Kentucky. The need is large, but a dedicated team of volunteers makes the project possible.
Volunteers work in teams to complete each portion of the cake-making process. Some will be baking the cakes while others will be frosting cakes and others create artwork. Decorators use fondant to create the finished product, which will be boxed up and prepared for delivery.
Among the volunteers are college students, like University of Kentucky student Alex Nguyen.
“Something like this is a way to kind of relax but also be doing something for the community, so I really enjoy that aspect of it,” Nguyen said.
“I like being able to be creative with the cake and make it come to life and say, hey, I can do that too,” said volunteer Kayla Pigg, also a student at UK. “It’s really rewarding at the end of the day knowing that you’ve done something that in the end is going to help somebody else.”
The work can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking, but in the end, the goal of Sweet Blessings is to give each kid a little bit of happiness, regardless of their circumstances.
“The stories just that we hear just will break your heart,” volunteer and board member Connie Malone said. “Kids who were 10 or 12 years old that this was their very first birthday cake. Very early on we made a birthday cake for a little girl who was in hospice and it was her last birthday cake. The purpose is to make that know that somebody loves them and cares that they feel special.”
This report originally appeared on KET’s “Kentucky Life.”
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