By Tracy Quisenberry, founder and executive director of Icing Smiles
Premier Class of 2016
Seven years ago I began a journey that has proven to be both the most challenging and most rewarding of my professional experience. I stepped down from an executive level tax position with a fortune 500 company to care for a child with minor health issues and fell in love with the art of cake decorating. The reactions of the kids to a custom cake made just for them filled a void that was previously filled with career accomplishments. The problem was we couldn’t eat that much cake. So I came up with the idea to donate the cakes to a local Ronald McDonald House with the hopes of creating special memories for families facing the critical illness or injury of a child. This is how Icing Smiles was born.
Icing Smiles is a non-profit organization that provides dream cakes and other treats to children with critical illness and their siblings. We understand that simple things, like a cake are a luxury to families battling illness. Our goal is to provide a temporary escape and positive memories during a difficult time. A beautiful cake gives a guilt-ridden mom a small victory, a struggling dad a belief in the kindness of strangers, worried grandparents relief when they see two generations of their family finally smiling, a sibling the attention they desperately miss, and the child battling an illness an opportunity to just be a kid.
We began by delivering our first cake to Violet, a beautiful 6-year-old battling brain cancer. At the time we had one “Sugar Angel” volunteer and long-term dreams that one day we would be able to extend our reach to serve any deserving child worldwide. Today, Icing Smiles has now served 13,000 people, has 8,500 volunteers, wonderful national sponsors and boasts two international chapters.
Yet we struggle. I “borrow” a popular phrase, “It takes a village” and as a tax professional, my village was small. It is hard for a young international charity to earn credibility in a competitive non-profit market and even harder to get community groups to back you because you don’t only serve in their backyard. Leadership Howard County has provided me with the opportunity to tell my story, network with other non-profit professionals, capitalize on knowledge in the fields of law, marketing and IT, and connect me with business leaders who understand our need for funding.
The benefits of my participation in LHC were never more evident than in the support I received for our annual fundraiser, The Buttercream Ball which we held on February 18 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. My classmates from 2016 filled a table at the event, another did graphics for the invitation, another sponsored directly and still another ensured that their company approved our grant application. Thanks to LHC, we had our best event yet and know that there are many more great ones ahead of us. Even better, we have connected with a family that will receive a Smile from us in March. Icing Smiles is grateful to Leadership Howard County and we look forward to a long partnership.
Cyndi Gula is a classmate and supporter of Tracy and Icing Smiles. “I love Icing Smiles’ mission but more impressive is Tracy herself,” she said. “She is strong, intelligent, supportive and encouraging. Tracy has proven herself to be more than capable on pretty much any task and she is very compassionate as well. I am impressed with her ability to think big and deliver beyond expectation.”
For more information about Icing Smiles, including sponsorship and volunteering, visit www.icingsmiles.org.