By Kyah Corff
Two local high school juniors became friends through their mutual love of baking, and now they want their hobby to change the world.
Lita Wright and Maddison “Maddie” Alton are also motivating their peers to make a difference — by supporting cancer research through baking.
Last spring, Maddie and Lita founded the Culinary Cure Club at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School with the intention to raise money through bake sales for the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. The foundation “funds clinical trials and collaborates with a network of cutting-edge hospitals across the nation to fast track less-toxic, more targeted treatments. All to increase the survival rate of children battling cancer,” according to its website.
The girls chose the foundation because of its reliability and its history of allocating most of its revenue to research. They chose cancer as their cause because of personal relationships with cancer survivors.
“We wanted a way to incorporate baking and making a difference in the lives of people going through cancer, and the research for developing a cure,” Maddie said.
Creating the club allowed Maddie and Lita to lead their peers in involvement in a nonprofit organization, which was a new experience for them. With about 15 active members, the club has organized three bake sales and raised about $500.
However, Lita and Maddie do not measure the club’s success by the amount of money raised, but by the size of the impact it is having on the community and the cause.
The club has connected bakers and non-bakers around the school in fighting cancer, and it proves to the members and others that young people can make an impact on the community and the world.
“I joined the club because I believe that a group of high school students can truly change the world we live in, and I wanted to be a part of that. Baking seems like such a small thing but it brings happiness to many. I hope that all the cupcakes and brownies I make can help children with cancer. I’m honored to be a part of the club,” said Gaby Saxon.
Baking has been a large presence in both Maddie’s and Lita’s lives.
Maddie grew up making cookies with her grandma and her babysitters. She warmly remembers handing out the baked goods to her neighbors when she was a child.
Lita grew up painting as a creative outlet, which transitioned to baking over the past few years. Lita was also inspired to learn and continue the art because of her family. Her grandmother baked for family events (she was famous for her cream cheese pies), and food has always united her family.
Her grandmother served as an inspiration to begin baking, but Lita explained that “my two brothers always ate and enjoyed what I baked, which is what really motivated me.”
Once Lita and Maddie decided that they wanted to use baking as a way to help a good cause, they began brainstorming about what they wanted to support.
Lita had someone really close to her struggle with breast cancer, which led to her fierce desire to advocate for other cancer victims. Maddie also had a friend struggle with cancer, which emotionally affected her. These connections to cancer survivors made them passionate about finding a cure.
“I wanted to do something that helps children because they have so much life ahead of them,” Maddie said, and thus they chose pediatric cancer as their cause.
Both girls hope that the club will provide a model to younger students to value their own work and their ability to help. Once they graduate, they will pass the club down to another member in the hope of leaving a beneficial legacy for the community.
“The club involves the high schoolers, my classmates, in something bigger than themselves and shows us the impact we have on the local community and the world,” Lita said.
“The club is important because it allows students to turn a passion into a way to help others going through a very hard time,” Maddie added.
Lita and Maddie both take advanced academic courses and are busy with other extracurricular activities, but they hope to do more bake sales, raise more money, and raise greater awareness for pediatric cancer.
The founders believe they have made a good start but hope the club will grow and get certified to sell baked goods at more places, such as school dances. They are new to the leadership and management roles, so this year has served as a learning experience on how to organize a group; they expect to become only better and stronger with time.
“The club has opened my eyes to helping more nonprofit organizations in the future, and that I can have a bigger impact than I thought,” Lita said.
To support the club, watch for future bake sales or make a direct donation to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation at nationalpcf.org under the tab “Support NPCF.”
Kyah Corff is an intern with the Santa Ynez Valley Star and a junior at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.