Hi! I’m Anita, the founder and general mayhem maker behind Baking Sweet Hope.
In the Spring of 2009 my brother Randy began to experience a weakness in one leg that eventually led to a diagnosis of ALS in the fall of that same year. While the average life expectancy for ALS patients following diagnosis is 2-5 years, my brother died after only 18 months on April 19, 2011. In those few months Randy lived with ALS he experienced loss after loss as the ALS progressed rapidly and savagely through his body. He lost the ability to walk and stand, to drive a car, to pull up his own pants, to get in and out of bed unaided, to breathe comfortably on his own, to eat, to drink, and to speak. By the time my brother died ALS had taken the use of most of his physical body though it never touched one single measure of his brilliant mind, playful humor, compassionate heart, generous spirit, or the love he had for others and the love that was returned to him from every direction. Even ALS has its limits.
It was during Randy’s last months with ALS I found a little oasis from the overwhelming sadness by going into the kitchen and baking cookies. It became my happy place covered in flour dust from floor to ceiling. I began by baking dozen after dozen of chocolate chip cookies to keep my brother’s freezer stocked with the cookies he loved, and even after chewing and swallowing had become impossible for him, I continued to bake so Randy could give out bags of cookies to anyone who stopped by his home, whether it was a friend who dropped by to visit or a repairman who came to fix a leaky pipe. Randy would roll his wheelchair directly into the path between his house guest and the front door and not budge until they had a paper lunch sack filled with cookies clutched in one hand.
Between baking batches of chocolate chip cookies I stumbled onto the blog, Bake at 350, and from there to Sweet Sugarbelle and Lilaloa. Falling in love with the simple joy of Bridget, Callye, and Georganne’s decorated cookies I traded in chocolate chips for cookie cutters, and as my decorating skills began to improve friends and family starting putting in their requests for birthdays and other celebrations. That’s when I connected the dots and realized I could use baking, the very thing I loved doing to raise money and awareness of ALS, so with Valentine’s Day 2011 just around the corner I offered to take orders for donations. Hoping to get at least 15 orders for gift boxes I was overwhelmed, in the best possible way, to get more than 50 orders in one day! That was the beginning of Sweet Hope.
Since 2011, largely due to the generosity and support of the online baking community through their participation in the annual Bake to Defeat ALS held during the summers of 2015 and 2016, Sweet Hope has raised more than 100,000 dollars, much of that going to support the work of The ALS Association and other leading organizations committed to aiding those living with ALS and to the research needed to find viable treatments and a cure. Along with my ongoing commitment to raising donations and spreading awareness about ALS, donations have also been made to the Go Bo! Foundation through their annual Go Bo! Bake Sale, Francis House, a children’s hospice located in Manchester, United Kingdom, and to families and individuals facing a medical crisis and in need of financial support and a little sweet hope. Whatever the cause or charity, Sweet Hope donates 100% of every dollar raised through online cookie auctions and flash sales, along with donating cookies directly to local non-profit events and charity fundraisers close to my heart.
It was Randy’s wish that after he was gone we’d continue to reach beyond our own family to help others, whatever their need, a wish that echoed what our parents and grandparents had demonstrated for us throughout their lives, and so it’s to honor the legacy of my grandparents, parents, and brother that I try in my small way through Baking Sweet Hope to bake a difference one cookie at a time for one person at a time. We might never be able to change the whole world but each of us have the ability to change someone’s world with a little touch of sweet hope.