I have a soft spot for problem-solvers, for causes of all kinds especially. And when the answer to a problem is sweet—as in, homemade sweets—so much the better.
This is where my batter-spattered copy of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook comes in. The book began, in a sense, when Gretchen Holt-Witt’s son Liam was diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2007, at age two. Searching for answers but finding only a dearth of information and treatment options, Holt-Witt’s journey took her from a devastating diagnosis to a slightly sweeter solution—or at least a sweet attempt to solve the very stubborn problem of research funding. That holiday season, she held a bake sale. A very big bake sale. The director of PR strategies for OXO in New York City, Holt-Witt enlisted the help of recipe writer Sally Sampson and rallied a crew of 250 volunteers. Collectively, over 17 days, they baked a whopping 96,000 cookies and sold them “grass roots” style, through the support of fellow cancer families who spread the word and helped fill orders nationwide. Together they raised more than $400,000 to help fund a promising treatment for the disease.
Less than a year later, in September 2008, Holt-Witt and her husband founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer with the mission of raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer, one bake sale at a time. Today, the organization is going strong in memory of Liam, proliferating hundreds of local sales around the country and baking cookies to order. They’ve raised millions of dollars to date, which is granted to leading pediatric cancer research facilities.
Holt-Witt writes in the book’s introduction that with sweetness “comes a love of baking and children and togetherness and hope for a better tomorrow. I’m guessing it is one of those loves—baking, children, or hope—that drew you to the pages of this book.” For me it was all three. Honestly, though, it could just as easily have been the book’s dozens of contemporary takes on bake-sale classics, pure and simple, including brown sugar cookies, bars and brownies galore, and loaves of moist applesauce bread. Not to mention cupcakes, scones, and candy-type treats the likes of chocolate-covered caramel-laced matzo.
Those inspired to donate their time and talents will also find savvy insider advice on bake sales sprinkled throughout, along with inspiring personal narratives. But rest assured, no one expects readers to bake and sell 8,000 dozen cookies like Holt-Witt and her crew did that first frenzied year. In fact, you don’t have to participate in a bake sale at all. Simply purchasing the book will help fund the cause. And sweeten life in the process.
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt with Sally Sampson (Wiley, 2011), is available for $19.99 wherever books are sold, including Amazon. All author proceeds benefit the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer organization. [Editor’s Note: Gretchen Holt-Witt has since authored another, equally enticing cookbook, All The Good Cookies, to benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.]