Community members support south Charlotte bake sale for cancer

Amy Godwin has been hard at work seeking T-shirt sponsors for this year’s Cookies For Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale in south Charlotte.

The fifth annual Cookies For Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale is this weekend in the Park Road shopping center.

The annual event has become somewhat of a holiday tradition for her family and her daughter’s soccer team, the Charlotte United Futball Club Girls 99 Gold Team – a tight-knit group of girls from south Charlotte who have rallied behind fellow teammate Grace Christenbury and her little brother Grier for nearly five years. Many of the girls were there for the first bake sale five years ago, where Amy Christenbury first began to raise money for pediatric cancer research in honor of her son Grier, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 2 years old.

Now it’s one of their favorite traditions, Godwin said, to not only help raise support for the cause but also help sell baked goods during the actual sale. They dress up as cupcakes, and pull their red Radio Flyer wagons across the parking lot of Park Road shopping center.

“It’s a huge part of their December,” Godwin said about the sale that is set for this weekend, Dec. 8 and 9. “I think they get so excited because they love Grier.” This year, the team also hopes to raise at least $10,000 in T-shirt sales.

For many of the girls, Godwin said Grier is their only connection to pediatric cancer. They’ve watched his ups and downs, she added, a reason the girls feel so driven to help out.

“It’s a very different thing than when an uncle, aunt or grandparent has (cancer). You would never know with Grier’s attitude that there is anything wrong with him. It’s just been a neat thing to see and the girls feel this is their chance to help out. This is really what we can do – help find funds to pay for these (clinical) trials and really find something that works.”

Anyone can help the cause this weekend by visiting Blackhawk Hardware in the Park Road shopping center, the location of Charlotte’s Fifth Annual Cookies For Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale. Lesa Helbein, Julie Valbuena and Amy Christenbury have been hard at work planning this year’s event, which will feature baked goods from more than 150 bakers and nearly 30 local bakeries and shops. This year’s sale will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 9, from noon to 5 p.m. Along with the Blackhawk Hardware location, 4225 Park Road, the sale also will take place at Birkdale Village in Huntersville and for the first year will spread to Franklin Square in Gastonia. Last year, the sale brought in around $100,000 and this year organizers are hoping to do the same or even more.

“Our goal is to raise another $100,000 and we want to fund a clinical trial,” Helbein said. “Last year, we collected donations for about 15,000 baked good items.” The ladies are still receiving confirmation from area volunteers and local bakeshops about baked good donations, although Helbein said it’s hard to put a definitive number on items to be sold because so many area community members just drop off baked goods the day of the event.

All three ladies said it takes great community spirit and effort from more than 300 volunteers to really make the sale a success.

“It all goes back to the community support – it’s our community connections and the community spirit that makes it happen. Many times, cancer touches people personally and that inspires them to help out or donate,” Valbuena said. “But our goal is to inspire people to get involved before they are touched by cancer. Those are the ones that there is the most hope for what we do. It really takes a village.”

Along with the bake sale, this year’s event also will feature a blood drive, fire trucks and Santa Claus, along with a special celebrity bake sale section, where local celebrities such as ABC’s The Bachelorette’s Emily Maynard will bake goods for the cause. Other featured guests are still being finalized, but several local news celebrities and sports players have agreed to participate. And the girls already are thinking of ways to expand the program next year, hoping to have a coinciding bake sale in Ballantyne – suggesting a possible location at Ballantyne Village, as long as they could get the community’s support.

“The amazing part of this is we don’t have a budget,” Amy Christenbury said. “Our biggest expense is the
fliers, around $200. The yard signs, banners and tables – all donated. When you put on an event this size, you have to have a lot of community support.”

For Christenbury, Grier was her inspiration to kick-off the first bake sale in her front yard five years ago, but as time has passed, she wants community members to know she’s not just fundraising for her son, but for all kids who may be touched by cancer.

“It’s humbling,” Christenbury said. “From the beginning, I would say it’s not about one child and not about one type of cancer. Childhood cancer affects so many people, and when you make it about one child, I think it loses something.”

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