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Cake4Kids Makes Birthdays Special for Local Kids in Foster Care and Homeless Shelters

The Sunnyvale nonprofit Cake4Kids doesn’t have an official location, but the footprint that it leaves on Bay Area youth living in foster care is immeasurable. For the past 10 years, Cake4Kids has partnered with a variety of local agencies that work with kids in the foster care system, group homes, homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters bringing them birthday cakes on a day that is otherwise forgotten.

“[With foster children] there’s nothing ever really for themselves. We want [a birthday cake that is] really special; that says their name. It’s a custom cake for them. They can ask for a theme, a flavor, anything they want,” said Julie Eades, Executive Director of Cake4Kids. “The two most important things are: it’s specially made for that child, baked with love and we never let the child down. Every cake makes a difference in their lives.”

Cake4Kids was started in 2010 by Libby Gruender who read a story about a foster mom who baked a cake for the new child she was fostering. The child ran away in tears. What the foster mom later found out is that the young girl had never had a birthday cake until that moment.

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“Libby couldn’t conceive of that so she started a little grassroots effort in Santa Clara County,” said Eades.

In its first year, Gruender’s Cake4Kids baked 13 cakes.

“It just snowballed from there,” said Eades. “[Libby] was very strong minded, also very personable so she could really convince people to help her. She got a group of people and began to talk to more agencies and gradually got it off the ground.”

Gruender died of cancer in 2013, but before she passed, she asked Eades and a few other friends to keep the nonprofit going. Not only did it keep going, but it grew.

Cakes4Kids baked 5,177 cakes in 2019 for kids not only in Santa Clara County, but other parts of the country too including Virginia, San Diego and Sacramento.

Eades truly believes the cakes have a lasting impact on the children.

“I think the children who do experience this, it starts to help them with a number of things,” said Eades “Self-esteem, they begin to trust the people around them. They’re not just paid to work for them, they’re doing something for the love of them as well. We also hear from the social workers that sometimes it really helps them with their bonds with child.”

Aside from one full-time staff member and a few part-time ones, Cake4Kids is volunteer based. Eades donates her time and so do the bakers. The volunteer bakers don’t get the joy of delivering the cake in person, but they often paid in thank you letters from the kids.

“There was a 14-year-old girl in the East Bay and she requested a soccer themed cake, did not want her name and did not want happy birthday on the cake,” said Eades. “About two or three months later, I got a letter in our PO Box from the young girl…it went on to say something like, ‘Thank you so much for baking my cake, exactly how I wanted it. I want to explain to you why I didn’t want my name or happy birthday on the cake. My birthday does not represent a good memory for me. My parents’ rights were terminated at that time and it doesn’t bring very good memories for me. However, my social worker says I should be positive and I will get adopted and I really hope I am because I want to live with a family again. So, if I’m adopted, I want to use my adoption date as my new birthday…I hope next year that you do get a request from me and it actually says my name and happy birthday.’ We looked in our database this year and we didn’t have a request from her so we all hope that actually meant that she was adopted.”

To find out more about Cake4Kids, visit their website at cake4kids.org.

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