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Christina Wyman

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A Sweeter Kind of Philanthropy: Cupcakes for a Cause

Posted: 03/09/10 08:51 PM ET

Ever since Sarah Jessica Parker visited Magnolia Bakery on Sex and the City, cupcakes have been America's trendiest treat. Trendy may be bit of a misnomer then, since the so called "cupcake craze" has been growing for over a decade and shows no signs of fading anytime soon. However, it is exactly that special mix of hipness and surprising longevity that makes cupcakes something really sweet -- a great fundraiser.

Cupcakes for a Cause™ is an annual national fundraiser for CancerCare for Kids® built precisely on that notion. It began in 2004 in the birthplace of cupcake mania, New York City, with 12 local bakeries that sold cupcakes adorned with the signature CancerCare for Kids smiley-face and donated a portion of the proceeds to the program. The company provides free professional support services, like counseling and financial assistance, to children affected by a cancer diagnosis, either their own or that of a family member or loved one.

As the country's love affair with cupcakes grew, so too did the campaign and the funds raised for the program. In 2009, for the week-long campaign in September there were over 365 participating bakery locations nationwide, featuring famous bakeries such as Baked in Brooklyn and Charleston, Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, D.C., and SusieCakes in Los Angeles, as well as several in-store bakeries in supermarkets like Whole Foods Market and Cub Foods.

In addition to the bakeries, the campaign now includes a number of other fundraising vehicles:

  • Bake sales: Student and community groups, companies, and individuals across the country host bake sales, with a free, downloadable bake sale kit supplied by Cupcakes for a Cause and its bake sale sponsor (in 2009, it was Reynolds Baking Cups®), and donate the proceeds to CancerCare for Kids
  • Cupcake in Bloom™: In 2009, for the first time, non-edible Cupcakes for a Cause were available for purchase during Cupcakes Week - 1-800-FLOWERS.COM's Cupcake in Bloom. During the month of September, 10% of net proceeds from the sales of these cupcake-shaped floral arrangements benefitted CancerCare for Kids.

With multiple cupcake-based fundraising channels, the 2009 campaign raised nearly $100,000 for CancerCare for Kids. And that's what makes this campaign such a sweet success -- it's not just about the cupcakes but about who they help -- children and adolescents who are coping with cancer. Whether they have cancer themselves or are grappling with a parent, sibling, or other loved one's illness, children have specific needs in terms of understanding cancer and the challenges it presents. The CancerCare for Kids program strives to address their concerns. CancerCare's professional oncology social workers help families navigate the often complex issues they face when coping with a cancer diagnosis though age-appropriate counseling, therapeutic recreational activities, educational materials, and financial assistance.

The 2010 Cupcakes for a Cause Week will be September 20-26, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As this unique fundraiser enters its seventh year, CancerCare looks to continue its growth, mirroring the ongoing expansion of the cupcake market itself. Because if we can help provide free support services for children coping with cancer while enjoying a delicious and chic treat, well that's just the frosting on the cupcake!