Cupcake Brigade comes to the rescue |

Cupcake Brigade comes to the rescue

Sandi Hoover
Sandi Hoover/Nevada AppealDenise DeMarzo, left, in the front office of Empire Elementary School, accepts a batch of brightly decorated birthday cupcakes from Deb Tull, organizer of the Cupcake Brigade, for a girl celebrating her birthday Tuesday.

When elementary school children celebrate their birthdays, someone in their family generally sends them to school with a batch of cupcakes to share with their classmates.

That is not always the case, however, because some families don’t have the means to celebrate.

That’s where Carson City’s Cupcake Brigade steps in.

“I heard about the idea four or five years ago, and I just ran with it,” said Deb Tull, who heads up the brigade. “It sounded like such a great idea, and we even won the Nevada Appeal’s Organization of the Year once.”

All Carson City elementary schools are included.

“We go into all the elementary schools for this, and we get the names from the Children in Transition group for the school district. The schools are all aware of what we do, and most have my number, but counselors will also call me sometimes if there is a special need,” Tull said. “Some of these kids can live in motels or down by the river so their parents aren’t able to make cupcakes. And some of these little ones won’t even tell anybody that it’s their birthday. Some kids are just more sad than others.”

The surprise cupcakes are always delivered anonymously.

“We bring the cupcakes into the office, and they get a special card from the Birthday Fairy. They know someone cared enough to bring them cupcakes for their birthday.”

Tull has about 20 ladies who are regularly involved in the Cupcake Brigade.

“I need more volunteers, though,” she said. “We had 13 kids this month alone. Some ladies go all out decorating. They really go to town. Others just decorate simply.”

Tull said the only restriction on making cupcakes is that there should be more than just chocolate cupcakes or frosting and none can have peanuts or other nuts.

“There are just too many kids with allergies,” she said. “The office notifies the teacher when cupcakes are there and the kids absolutely adore them,” she said.

The Cupcake Brigade provides cupcakes to well over 100 youngsters a year. Some months there might be only four or five, but she’s had as many as 17 in one month.

“I do all the ones where people aren’t available to help. I keep lots of cake mixes, frosting and decorations on hand,” she said.

“Everybody has a busy life, but if they’re willing to help even a little, God love ’em,” she said. “I appreciate these people. They provide their own ingredients. Some are retired and are so generous.”

Tull said assignments are all made by telephone or e-mail.

“I wouldn’t know these women if we ran into each other in the grocery store because we do everything by phone or e-mail, and I try to give them advance notice – about a week. The last-minute cupcakes I do myself,” she said.

Some of the women prefer taking cupcakes to the schools nearest their homes or some want to take them to a school their children attend, but many work full-time jobs and still find time, she said.

Tull recalls a story about one of her volunteers who made cupcakes for a kindergarten class and the teacher requested that the volunteer deliver the cupcakes to the classroom.

“She said this little boy absolutely lit up as bright as one of his cupcakes. He was just so delighted and thankful,” she said. “You would have thought it was the first birthday party he’d ever had.”

It’s the smiles on the faces of the children and the hearts of volunteers that make it all worthwhile to Tull.

“Carson City is such a giving city,” she said.