Cake4Kids expands to San Diego to offer birthday experiences for foster youth

When Alison Andreas heard that there were children who had never celebrated their birthdays properly, she decided to do something about it.

The Cardiff-by-the-Sea woman set a goal for herself this year to provide 100 birthday cakes and other treats to San Diego foster children and other kids in need.

"I've always had a thing for foster kids, and last year my daughter and I did our own homegrown fundraiser where we made pies to buy school supplies," she said. "I read a story when I was young about kids in foster care having to pack their clothes when they moved between homes in trash bags, and it just broke my heart. I feel like these kids have enough challenges as it is, so I feel like for them to have a little bit of normalcy and feel good and special, any little thing that can be done to help them is valuable."

However, realizing she had a large task on her hands, she began doing some research online to find people with similar intentions.

Her search led her to the Bay Area-based Cake4Kids, a nonprofit that donates baked goods to children in need for their birthdays. After Andreas contacted them earlier this year, they agreed to let her expand the program to San Diego.

The program serves foster and homeless children, as well as kids who are in domestic violence and human trafficking situations, Andreas said.

Since bringing it to San Diego, Andreas has recruited a handful of volunteers to bake goods for children at Casa de Amparo in San Marcos and San Diego Youth Services in Point Loma. She said she is also receiving requests from other similar organizations.

Children are invited to fill out an order form with what kind of treat they want — cakes, brownies, cookies and cupcakes — along with options for frostings, flavors and decorations.

Past themes have included Pokemon and the band 21 Pilots, Andreas said.

"Birthdays are special and should be celebrated," she said. "Anything we can do to make these kids feel special is important. It takes a whole host of services to help kids in foster care and homeless kids. This is just one of many services that can help them feel like they're having a normal childhood and celebrating a special day."

She added San Diego is the sixth largest city for homeless youth in the nation, and there are an average of 3,000 foster kids in the county each year. Most of those children spend an average of three birthdays in care, she said.

Joanne Fodor, a volunteer baker from Encinitas, said she hopes the children realize their importance and that their lives are worth celebrating.

Anthony Parham, foster care program manager at San Diego Youth Services, said the birthday celebrations "mean the world" to the children.

"We had one youth who had never had a birthday party and we were able to have Cake4Kids donate a cake for this youth," he said. "He got very emotional when he saw the cake because he had never had his own birthday party or cake before. He just celebrated his 12th birthday. ... This program reaches out to the underserved and underprivileged in a way that we may not be able to serve them. There is love, compassion and kindness in these cakes, and it’s a world of wonder for the youth receiving them."

So far, Andreas has recruited about 45 volunteers, including members of the San Diego Cake Club, but is looking to get to at least 200 volunteer bakers in the next year. Bakers also do deliveries, she said.

Michelle Grad, an Emergency Room doctor and mother, said she takes time out of her busy schedule to volunteer with the program because she wants to teach her children the importance of giving back.

"My husband finished Sparta300 for Charity, and we, as a family, did Bike for Mike," said the Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident. "My son did his first 5K for lymphedema research two years ago. And my husband and I are biking tandem for arthritis from San Francisco to Los Angeles for the second time in September. It is important to walk the walk if you expect your children to follow in your footsteps. With this group we can participate and have family time experience as a bonus."

Andreas invites any bakers who might be interested in volunteering with Cake4Kids to visit Cake4kids.com and sign up for an orientation.

"Right now I'm just getting off the ground, and if I make close to 100 cakes this year I'll be very happy," she said. "I'd like to see what we can do with the volunteers we're able to recruit this year."

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