Baked expectations: Cake auctions benefit school sports
PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY | LMc Photography
A sample of cakes from Smithville, Waynedale and Dalton. (Archive and Facebook posts)
From Waynedale Athletics Facebook page, this special cake was designed in memory of golfer Deegan Bee at this year’s cake auction. They had a full house for the annual Waynedale Athletic Booster Club Cake Auction, according to the Facebook post. A record $15,550 was raised Feb. 3.
Batter up! Raising money through an auction is not always a piece of cake. Unless, of course, the items auctioned happen to be delicious mouth-watering cakes in all shapes, sizes and flavors.
Over the years, booster clubs for sports at some Wayne County schools have hosted cake auctions to benefit teams and student-athletes. This tradition has proven to be a sweet success and is growing in popularity locally.
Smithville All Sports Booster Club had its cake auction Jan. 13. The auction went on during halftime and in between the JV and Varsity boys basketball games against Chippewa. The Green Local Schools Facebook page announced the grand total was $19,635, which broke last year’s record.
Waynedale Athletic Booster Club has its cake auction Friday, Feb. 3 during the JV and varsity boys basketball games against Smithville, according to Waynedale Athletics on Facebook. During JV halftime, the cheerleading, girls and boys soccer and golf cakes will be auctioned. Baseball, softball, boys and girls track and cross country cakes will be auctioned between games. Girls and boys basketball, wrestling, volleyball and football cakes will be auctioned during varsity halftime.
Rittman had its cake auction last week, and Dalton All Sports Booster Club had its cake auction Jan. 20 and raised $7,925 with 18 cakes.
“As far as we can tell the cake auction was first mentioned in a booster club meeting in 2001,” Dalton All Sports Booster Club President Steph Pearson said in an email. “The first cake auction was held in January 2003. Our records of the funds received go back to 2006, since that time we’ve raised just shy of $65,000 the only year we haven’t had a cake auction recently was in 2021 due to Covid.”
And where did Dalton get the idea for a cake auction?
Kristen Kiko, realtor and auctioneer, whose family has donated time for years to Dalton’s auction, said she thought the idea may have come from Smithville.
The DGKN may have caught up with the woman who began the sports booster club cake auctions in Wayne County, thanks to Marcia Trent seeing a callout on The DGKN’s Facebook page and tracking down Mary Jane Olsen of Smithville.
In a phone interview, Olsen said with a laugh that she remembers bringing the idea to Smithville’s booster club in the late 1990s. The mother of four whose son is now the head football coach and who has a granddaughter going through the Green Local school system was teaching at Wooster Christian when the All Sports Booster Club approached her about contributing since her children participated with varsity sports. Wooster Christian had done a cake auction for its sixth-grade class to benefit the Washington D.C. field trip and Olsen thought Smithville could try the fundraiser. She also had heard of boy scouts conducting cake auctions. She had no idea how successful the night would be or that the fundraising event would continue to grow more than 20 years later – and that other schools would catch on.
“Back when it started, I used to go to every team captain and say, “We’re going to do a cake auction, I would like you to be in charge of having your team make a cake to auction off,” she said. The only rules were basically that the cake had to be “edible,” “presentable,” and represent the team’s sport.
“The kids got behind it right away and the parents were wonderfully supportive,” Olsen said. “They did such cool stuff but never in my wildest dreams did I think of what would happen that first night.”
She remembers the night of Smithville’s first cake auction late in the 1990s during a boys varsity basketball game against Dalton. Smithville’s wrestling parents told her the boys were 100 percent making a beautiful cake but they had a huge tournament that Saturday so they requested that the boosters accommodate them and permit the wrestling cake to be the last one on the auction block.
Olsen remembers vividly as the cakes were auctioned off. The evening had been successful but there was no sign of the wrestlers or their families yet as the time approached to auction off their cake. “Just as the second to last cake sold they jumped in line with this beautiful cake that represented their sport and the bids just started rolling,” she said.
Olsen couldn’t remember the exact number but she said when the gavel went down that cake had brought in about $800. She said the wrestling parents had gone around collecting money from parents and businesses to help them buy the boys’ cake back and they were determined to raise the most money for the booster club that night with their cake.
“So they set a precedent,” Olsen said.
She remembers the boys basketball team played Dalton that night of the first cake auction because she has a fun memory of a Dalton fan approached her and complimented her and made a joke at the same time.
“A gentleman from Dalton came over and he said, ‘I hear you’re the gal who’s the director of this extravaganza,’ and I said, ‘I am and it’s our very first one, ‘ and he said, ‘well, I’m going to come to Smithville and build a bakery because you people have no idea how much baked goods should cost.”
She also recalled that within a week someone from the Dalton Booster Club asked about how they did their cake auction and then Northwestern called her about the cake auction and it snowballed from there. Over the past couple of decades she believes most school sports booster clubs in Wayne County have had cake auctions.
She remembers a 3-foot-long cake representing the entire football field, and cross country course cakes and a cake designed to look like a golf course that had a gift certificate to the Pines to play golf in the cup for the 9th hole.
“The kids just got so inventive,” she said. “It was just really really fun to see. They really got into it.. Every sport has had a memorable cake.”
Olsen, whose husband, Steve, is the pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, is still recognized by many of her former kindergarten students as she works at The Oak Cupboard. Their son Pete lives with them, son Ben teaches at Orrville, son Phil is the football coach and takes care of the grounds at the College of Wooster and their daughter, Becca, is a college professor in Michigan. She still tries to attend the cake auction each year and they don’t miss a Smithies football game. She notes that lifestyles have changed over the years and student-athletes tend to be too busy to get together in one person’s kitchen to make the cakes from scratch so more cakes tend to be purchased or donated from bakers to represent the sports. Still, the teams and their families have fun with the event and she marvels at the bids that come in and the sense of community and tradition and support of school sports that have come out of it.
“Parents have continued to get behind it,” she said. “We still have alumni coming back and supporting it… Wayne County people are amazing.”