A birthday is not the same without a cake. Blowing candles, making wishes and cutting into the sweet sponge are part of the tradition. But how about the people who don’t even have money for basic supplies, let alone dessert?
Teenagers from Montgomery County, Maryland, are solving the problem by baking cakes for those who cannot afford them.
A few years back Allison Wachen saw a homeless man with a cup that said “Donate for my boy’s birthday” in his hand. The idea that people might go without a proper celebration broke her heart. When she came across a magazine article about Birthday Cakes 4 Free (BC4F) she jumped at the opportunity to turn the situation around.
At just 15, she started the Montgomery County chapter of the organization, which now has over 400 volunteers and delivers up to 150 cakes every month.
Birthday Cakes 4 Free is a National organization. It has 64 chapters across the country. Only one of them is run by teenagers.
Allison launched Birthday Cakes 4 Free Montgomery County Chapter together with her brother Robert. They started small, with a few friends donating 10 cakes a month. Wanchen has always loved baking, so making cakes wasn’t as difficult as bringing them to people in need. Most of the initial BC4F members weren’t old enough to drive.
On top of that, adults didn’t always take them seriously. “I think people at first, since you’re a youth and you’re starting an organization, maybe assume you’re not as organized,” Wachen told ABC.
The girl’s enthusiasm was infectious, though. By the end of the first year BC4F had a team of 150 and baked 50-90 cakes a month. Now the organization works with 17 local charities and is planning to celebrate its 2000th delivery in April 2018.
What’s even more important, every cake is special. “Make each cake as if you were giving it to someone in your family,” Wanchen tells all her volunteers.
For BC4F members a cake is more than a cake, it’s a symbol allowing them to celebrate a person’s life. Each time the students bring cakes to kids or seniors they spend several hours speaking with them.
In the fall of 2018 Wachen will go to college. Allison’s brother, two years her junior, will take over the organization with the support of the all-student executive board.
“My involvement in BC4F has shaped my high school experience by giving me confidence that I can be a leader who can make a difference in my community.” Allison says.
Featured image: Birthday Cakes 4 Free Montgomery County Chapter