Cupcake sales raise funds for animals in need of homes
by Jessica Langdon
LENEXA — Annie Toussaint is really stirring things up.
The 13-year-old seventh- grader at Holy Trinity School in Lenexa has mixed, baked and sold enough lemonade, organic dog treats and decadent cupcakes to donate thousands of dollars to help animals waiting for homes.
Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Mo., was so impressed with Annie’s fundraising and enthusiasm on its behalf, it has named her grand marshal — twice in the past three years — for its annual Strutt With Your Mutt fundraiser walk and 5K run.
Leading up to this year’s event on Sept. 22, Annie lent her voice for Wayside Waifs on TV, online and in postcards.
This girl, who has her heart set on becoming a veterinarian, has always loved dogs — from family dogs Rexi and Maya, to all the neighborhood pups.
Her family fell in love four years ago with lab-and-husky mix Maya — then just a puppy — at a Wayside Waifs mobile unit and adopted her.
So it wasn’t hard for Annie to pick the organization she wanted to help when planning a huge backyard bash for her 10th birthday.
In the party invitations she sent to about 30 girls, she asked them not to bring her presents — but instead included a wish list for Wayside Waifs.
Annie’s mom, Susan Toussaint, couldn’t believe the gifts that poured in. Some of the girls had trekked door to door, filling to the brim those big yellow trash bags Catholic school students sell. Bags overflowed with pet supplies: towels, leashes, newspapers and stuffed animals.
When the Toussaints delivered the huge load to Wayside Waifs, staffers gave Annie a tour of the no-kill facility.
During it, she learned that at the facility, dogs and cats have a safe, happy, clean, bright place to stay until someone adopts them.
And it’s community support that makes the shelter — including an 11,000-square-foot expansion that’s underway — possible.
Annie’s question at the end of the tour caught her mom by surprise.
“What else can I do to help the animals?” then 10-year-old Annie wanted to know.
They pointed her to the volunteer board — and a flier for Strutt With Your Mutt — and Annie kicked off her fundraising.
“I would have never thought in a million years it would turn into this three years later,” Susan said. “Every year she says, ‘What more can I do?’”
Annie raised about $700 that first year by selling lemonade and homemade dog treats at stands outside their home.
Impressed with someone so young showing such initiative, Wayside Waifs made her the grand marshal of the 2010 Strutt with Your Mutt event.
After two years of offering lemonade and dog treats at her stands, Annie discovered the Food Network and its hit show “Cupcake Wars,” and whipped up an idea to appeal to the human palate, too.
Her cupcakes were an instant hit.
“It’s her initiative. She organizes it. She does all the baking. And when people see these cupcakes, they say, ‘No way — those are professionally done!’” said Megan Harding, development associate at Wayside Waifs. “I’m just thoroughly impressed and have been since I met her.”
As Annie’s baking took off, her 14-year-old brother Zack and his friends happily volunteered their services as taste testers after their weekly golf sessions.
“That’s how I decided all my big flavors,” said Annie. (Red velvet has proven a favorite.)
Her family picks up the tab for the ingredients so all the donations benefit Wayside Waifs.
“I get to buy the ingredients and take [the cupcakes] out of the oven,” Susan said.
“And Dad (David) washes the dishes,” added Annie.
Annie decorates her cakes with skills she mastered in a class at a Michaels arts and crafts store.
With the addition of her cupcakes, Annie led the fundraising in 2011, which earned her the grand marshal title again for 2012.
Between August and September this year, Annie organized three cupcake stands: two with 150 cupcakes and one with 350 — all featuring 14 flavors.
Every year, she has roughly doubled her donations from the previous year, and this time she raised about $3,000 for Wayside Waifs.
People give generously, and someone who didn’t make it to the stands dropped $20 off at her door.
Friend and fellow Holy Trinity seventh-grader Allison Coens has been working the stands with her from the beginning, and many of Annie’s other friends help as well.
Her soccer coach encouraged her to sell cupcakes after a practice, and her sixth-grade teacher Mary Stofferahn let her take orders last year so her class could help.
Service is ingrained in the students at Holy Trinity, Susan believes, adding that Catholic education goes far beyond “book learning.”
“It is about becoming a whole person and really walking in Christ’s footsteps and putting others first,” she said.
In a world where the negative so often makes the news, Susan finds inspiration in the unconditional love her daughter pours into her efforts.
“She sees us being charitable, so she is, too,” said Susan. “But we learn from her.”
Harding sees the donations making a difference for thousands of animals and has been struck many times by Annie’s initiative and character.
And the icing on the cake for Annie? Seeing someone even younger follow in her footsteps.
“A little girl came up to me and said she did a birthday party for Wayside Waifs after hearing about my story,” Annie said.