Since she was a little girl, Blake Colvin has dreamed of owning and living above a cupcake shop. The diminutive treats have figured so prominently in her life, she even named her toy poodle “Cupcake,” and when inspired to take a bold course of action, she found a way to incorporate them into her plans.
Nearly three years ago, Blake, now 14, fell ill with a puzzling disease that doctors misdiagnosed as cancer. After her treatment and recovery, she conceived a deceptively simple plan to help other children facing similar pain and fear: bake cupcakes to sell, and give the proceeds to kids in need.
“I’ve always loved cupcakes,” Blake explains, “and I started baking them because I’m a chemo survivor. I was hanging around cancer survivors, and I wanted to give something back.”
Last fall, Blake heard about a fellow eighth-grader, Kevin Krzyston, who was fighting leukemia, and on September 20 she hosted her first bake sale. She called her enterprise Cupcakes for Cancer, and chose for its official launch a Friday night football game at Santa Ynez High School, where 170 little cakes flew off the table for a dollar a piece.
“It took us six weeks to raise $5000 for Kevin,” Blake says, “and now we’re raising money for Make a Wish Foundation. We’ve raised $1000 for them so far.
“It was easy to get my friends to help bake the cupcakes,” she adds. “They wanted to help, and they’ve supported us a lot.”
Blake’s “cupcake crew,” officially known as “Cupcake Angels,” grew to include over 50 girls and boys living all over the Valley. They bake, man the sales table, help with cleanup, and one high school senior, Anton Warkentin, who received a cash award for scholarship and philanthropy, even donated $500 to the cause.
In fact, the entire community has gotten involved, with Valley Screen Printing silk-screening the group’s colorful aprons free of charge, Graphic Systems donating an eye-catching banner, and generous locals sharing the proceeds from car sales and jewelry parties. Valley Oaks Bank and Rio Vista Chevrolet matched funds raised during one sale, while New Frontiers Marketplace contributed 5% of a day’s profits.
Cupcakes for Cancer recently earned non-profit status, which will allow Blake and other Cupcake Angels to funnel funds into specific areas of pediatric research. Donations are now tax deductible, making it easier for the organization to expand beyond the borders of Santa Barbara County.
“It’s all about children making a difference in the world,” says Stephanie Colvin, Blake’s mom and self-described secretary for the group. “We’re trying to get more Cupcake Angels out into the world.”
To spread the word about Cupcakes for Cancer and encourage others to become Cupcake Angels, Blake has posted her goals and methods on her MySpace page until she can set up a website. The cheerful cupcake wallpaper on the page was a birthday gift from her brother Barrett, a Cal Poly student who does most of the group’s graphic design.
Browsers to the page will find Blake’s story, inspirational recipes for “children making a ‘sweet’ difference one crumb at a time” and lots of photos.
Newbie Cupcake Angels can get a headstart on holding their own sales by ordering a handy Cakebox Bakesale Starter Kit.
“The kit has an apron in it, a C&H Sugar cookbook and news articles about Cupcakes for Cancer,” Blake says. “Oh, and coupons for powdered sugar to make frosting.” Cupcakes for Cancer got a big boost when Disney’s latest all-girl ’tween band, the G-Girlz, named the organization as one of the beneficiaries of their fund-raising efforts.
In August, the band —pink tutus, princess tiaras and all—will play a lively concert at Solvang’s Festival Theater, with proceeds going to Make a Wish Foundation and pediatric cancer research.
After eating, baking and adoring cupcakes for most of her life, Blake doesn’t let bold flavors and rainbow sprinkles dazzle her, just as she doesn’t hesitate to take on large tasks. Despite her impressive goals and dynamic presence, her tastes remain simple.
“I like vanilla cupcakes,” she says with a quiet smile, “with lots of vanilla frosting.”