One year ago today the world watched in shock as media coverage poured in from the earthquakes and tsunami that occurred off the coast of Sendai, Japan. I’ll admit, at the time I was pretty preoccupied with mom life and consider it just another devastating natural disaster in global news. Weeks later, however, I found myself up late, enthralled by YouTube videos capturing the power of the tsunami waters. I didn’t know what to do to help but knew I had to offer more than just my sympathies. What could I do?! I was just a stay-at-home mom with no money to give. The next morning I woke up with an idea of a fundraising bake sale in Whitby.
We hadn’t lived in Durham Region long, and didn’t really know anyone aside from our close neighbours and a few play-date parents, but this seemed like a good opportunity to introduce myself. I sent out a message to a close friend, George Kourounis, Host of the TV show Angry Planet and Mother Nature Expert, and asked if he would come out to speak if I created an event to raise funds for Japanese relief. He was immediately on-board but only had one day to offer in his busy schedule, I snagged it and called our local community centre to secure a room. Within a day I had an idea, a date, the venue, and a headliner.
From there the event came together so organically it was almost magical. I designed a website (www.whitbybakesforjapan.com), made a facebook event page, created fliers and posters and asked our friends to help in any way they could. Emails and phone calls went out to a few retailers in the area, asking for donations that we could raffle for more money. No one was responding to me, so I wrote a press release about the importance of community efforts and started approaching the managers and business owners in person with it. I was able to personally raise about $2000 in goods and certificates this way, which illustrates that you can never underestimate what you can gain by simply asking.
Two weeks before the bake sale the buzz triggered an interest with local bakeries and baking hobbyists; almost over-night my inbox was flooded with inquiries, donations and volunteers. All of my efforts in planning the event were paying off and it was time for me to shift my attention to earning as many donations as possible. I sat with the Durham Region Canadian Red Cross Society (who were working directly with the Japanese Red Cross in relief efforts) and gained some fundraising ideas. It was at this time that the OshKosh B’Gosh Cranes for Kids campaign was brought to my attention. OshKosh would donate an item of childrens clothing to Japanese shelters for every origami crane submitted to them. Unfortunately the campaign was U.S. based and had ended by the time I found out about it, so I contacted the campaign’s management team and convinced them to extend the offer to our event.
The Sunday of the bake sale came and I was so anxious to see what the outcome would be. I never underestimated my community, I just worried that I hadn’t done enough to provoke people to actually donate the baked goods and, of course, arrive with cash to spend. 5 minutes after we opened the doors, it was evident Whitby Bakes for Japan was a success! 20 amazing individuals had arrived to volunteer as money collectors and origami crane makers. George had prepared an engaging presentation for the crowd explaining what causes a 9.1 earthquake and the resulting tsunami, and my dad arrived with his sound equipment to project it. We had 200+ donated baked goods for sale (everything from cotton candy, to cookies, to handmade sock monkeys, to gluten-free cheesecakes), and there was a line up of hungry families ready to purchase. We raised $3200 in cash and created 1000 items of clothing for those in need in just 2 hours on that Sunday afternoon.
A year later, I am still so proud of what my community achieved that day but there is still so much to do to help with the devastation in Japan. The Red Cross Society has released a “1 Year Later Donor Report” detailing how to continue to donate and where the funds are distributed.
Thank you again to everyone who was involved with Whitby Bakes for Japan. The website remains online and you can link to each of the sponsors through it. We don’t have another fundraiser in the works (yet) but I hope this personal story can inspire a few others to be reminded that a single idea can be a very powerful thing, even for “just a stay-at-home mom”.
Photography by K. Thompson Photography.Add to favorites