Making and Baking A Difference
Making and Baking A Difference
By Julia Chin
Many of us happily take a birthday celebration for granted. But for some kids, birthdays are when they are painfully reminded of all their hardships.
One woman in Central Kentucky, Ashley Boyd Gann, wanted to make a difference for those kids. She left her career in public health to give underprivileged kids an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind birthday cake so they can blow out the candles on their special day.
In 2011, Gann founded the nonprofit Sweet Blessings to start baking multiple-tiered, fondant-covered cakes for children living in poverty or suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The work operates on a referral basis, receiving requests from churches, schools, or social service providers, and then creating a special cake specifically tailored to each child’s interests.
“I really believe that the child is going to feel as special as their cake,” says Gann. She’s made everything from princess cakes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle birthday cakes.
Many local schools have noticed a culture change since they became involved with Sweet Blessings. Many of the cakes are delivered while their recipients are in school; children who were once bullied suddenly start making friends, and kids grieving a loss are given a reason to smile again. “It’s amazing what God can do with a little cake and a lot of love,” says Gann.
The nearly forty volunteers play a huge role in Sweet Blessings, serving eighteen different counties within Kentucky. Gann meets her team every Monday and Tuesday, functioning amidst organized chaos to whip through about 35 weekly cake orders in time for the kids’ birthdays. “All the cakes are made by volunteers, but I never know whose going to be there,” says Gann. “I’m not paying these people. This is not their job; they don’t have to stay with me till the last cake is done. But they stay, and they come back the next week!”
Many of the volunteers who come to Sweet Blessings are retired and looking for a way to be engaged and give back to their community. Since many of them have never baked a professional cake, Gann has learned to juggle different roles. “You have to have a very wide skill set, you have to be an administrator, a teacher, a counselor, you have to do it all, and that is challenging,” says Gann.
Despite the challenges, it has been a very rewarding journey. Gann does not deliver the cakes personally to the children, but knowing that she is making a difference in the lives of so many kids, families, and even volunteers—that is the proverbial icing on the cake.
When Sweet Blessings first began, if you had told Gann how many cakes she would be baking each week for children, she would have told God to send someone else. But every morning she gets up, takes the next step, and bakes the next cake.
“God brought cakes into my life so I would reach out to children and families,” says Gann. “There are a lot of tough situations that I cannot change, but what I can do is make these kids an unforgettable birthday cake.”