April 20, 2010
A sweet way to support Dana-Farber
Carol Brownman Sneider (left) organizes Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer. Tzurit Or, chef and owner of Tatte Fine Cookies and Cakes (right), is donating nut boxes and biscotti to the event.
Did you know that chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake or cookies may help cure cancer? They do in Carol Brownman Sneider's world of Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, an event that raises funds through dessert sales during the week before Mother's Day. Sneider has spent the last 11 years making baked goods even sweeter, raising $370,000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Boston Bakes participants donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of designated desserts on their menus to breast cancer research and care at Dana-Farber. The event captures the attention of renowned chefs and bakers from across Massachusetts, including the Cape and Islands. This year's week of indulgence is from May 3 to 9 and includes more than 200 venues.
By 7 a.m. each morning Sneider is up and checking e-mail, usually on the couch with her two dogs Sweet Pea and Kudzu. After responding to Facebook posts and Twittering, she makes dozens of calls to participating retailers.
Supporters connect to her dedication. For example, a Boston Bakes Facebook fan who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer offered to help contact vegan cafes and bakeries about participating. Several years ago, Sneider met a breast cancer survivor at a bakery in Newton. The woman told Sneider that she and her friends make Boston Bakes their annual "Restaurant Week," visiting as many new venues as possible.
Sneider's inspiration was her mother. Eva Brownman died from breast cancer at age 44, leaving behind Sneider and her younger sister, Marjie Brownman Shapiro. Since their father had also passed away years before, they were orphans. An aunt and uncle came to live with Sneider and her sister in their home in an effort to create as little disruption possible to the girls' daily life.
More than 20 years later, Shapiro saw a Dana-Farber doctor on TV. She told Sneider that it sparked an idea and they immediately began thinking of ways they could give back. In 1991 the sisters founded the Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund to benefit breast cancer research and education at Dana-Farber. In their mother's honor, they planned black-tie galas, comedy nights and fashion shows over the next 10 years. The drive to find a cure intensified when Sneider had a daughter of her own and began to worry if her life would mirror her mother's.
"I want see (my daughter's) life unfold," Sneider says. "It's my only wish."
But for Sneider, the high-priced fundraising events had become stale. She wanted a new approach, something that fit into everyone's life, regardless of income.
"I didn't want people to have to buy expensive tickets and pay for a baby-sitter, and then buy auction items when they arrived," she says. "Boston Bakes meets people where they are and provides something that everyone can afford."
Each year, Sneider combs through the Boston Globe, Zagat and local magazines, looking for names to add to the Boston Bakes list of participants. Last year, she noticed a feature on Tzurit Or, the owner of Tatte Fine Cookies & Cakes in Brookline. Sneider sent her an e-mail, and Tzurit joined the cause.
Like so many others, Or also has been affected by cancer, beginning early in her childhood: both of her grandparents and several friends have been diagnosed with the disease. On a rainy spring day, Or and Sneider sat in Tatte's Parisian-style café, weighing which dessert to add to the Boston Bakes menu. They decided on two — Tatte's best-selling nut boxes and biscotti.
"I like to do something that's very popular and that we sell a lot of since 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward cancer research," Or says.
— Kristie DiSalvo