When your name is Joan Cusack, you get asked to join all kinds of good causes.
But as a mother of two known for making career choices based on how long she'll be away from her family in Chicago, Cookies for Kids' Cancer was an opportunity she couldn't refuse. Pancreatic cancer took her father's life seven years ago. The father of her son's friend died of the same disease.
"Cookies for Kids' Cancer was looking for a spokesman and I thought I could authentically jump in and get a message out there," she says.
Cusack joined the cause last year and along with corporate sponsor Glad Products helped raise $340,000 and register more than 600 Cookies for Kids' Cancer bake sales around the country. Proceeds from bake sales registered at CookiesForKidsCancer.org go toward finding new treatments. The organization also sells packaged cookies and is having a Recipe for Giving contest where families share tips or advice on how they give back to their communities through food-related activities. The deadline is June 30.
The program got its start three years ago, after 2-year-old Liam Witt was diagnosed with cancer. His mother, Gretchen Witt of New York City, started selling cookies to raise money for less toxic and more effective treatments.
"Somebody from Glad read about it in a magazine and said this woman is extraordinary and they're doing it with bake sales," Cusack says.
The problem, she says, is that people don't want to talk about pediatric cancer.
"I get it. It's sad. Just like people didn't want to talk about breast cancer years ago. There's an evolution to these things."
The comic actress who may be best known for Oscar nominated roles in "In & Out" and "Working Girl" grew up in an Irish Catholic household where giving back to the community was expected.
"It's important to think of ways you can have a meaningful life," she says. "There are lots of different ways to do it. My passions are more in the home."
Like many parents, Cusack likes it when companies make giving back easy. Glad is making a $1 donation to the program every time specially marked products are sold.
"When I go shopping and I know a company is giving back, I say why not just make that choice?
"Life is busy and companies are starting to do great things. It's important to pay attention to your family and you can't always be a political activist like my mom. But you can do little things."
John Tanasychuk can be reached at jtanasychuk@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4632.
How to Help
Go to CookiesForKidsCancer.org.
Why Research is so Important
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children younger than 18, but research for the disease has been historically under-funded. Approximately half the drugs used to treat children with cancer are at least 20 years old. The treatments most children receive today were created for adults and have not been proven truly safe for children. If children survive the initial treatments, they are often left with other life-threatening conditions from the aggressive treatments intended to save them.
-Cokies for Kids' Cancer