For many, a cake on their birthday is a given. However, for others, it’s a quiet luxury that they are unable to attain.
Recognizing this unfortunate reality, Cake4Kids — a national organization with a Fairfax County chapter founded by Mary Campbell in 2019 — seeks to make birthday cakes accessible for all.
According to Campbell, her Cake4Kids chapter makes and delivers free custom cakes for major celebratory events, including birthdays, graduations, adoptions, and academic achievements, to people aged 1-24 throughout Northern Virginia. Popular cake themes include Disney, Minecraft and Fortnite.
“We’re helping families because some of them don’t have the resources, and it may be a choice between paying a bill and getting a cake,” Campbell said. “We want to remove that burden for them and be able to provide the cake that they want for their child. In other cases, it strengthens the bonds between a case worker and a child.”
Campbell’s branch of Cake4Kids is currently partnered with 117 organizations across the county, such as Fairfax County Public Schools, community centers, affordable housing nonprofits, immigration clinics and homeless and domestic violence shelters.
The collaborations help the chapter increase its reach and make a positive impact on as many families and children as possible — an impact that Campbell finds “hard to quantify.”
“I hear stories about the impact [Cake4Kids] has on families and children,” Campbell said. “I hear from schools how students are brought to tears when they realize they’ve just received a cake — families that are so relieved that they were able to give their child a cake that they too are brought to tears.”
Celebrating its four-year anniversary in May by delivering its 4,000th cake to a 14-year-old girl in Fairfax County, Campbell’s chapter has grown tremendously since its inception as a one-woman operation.
After baking 163 cakes in its first year, the chapter now has a hearty team of 750 volunteer bakers who successfully made 2,000 cakes in 2022. Its success relies on the dedication of a team of “heroes” who spend their free time baking and delivering cakes all across the county, Campbell says.
In many instances, the bakers never meet the children they baked a cake for, instead dropping the cake off with the organization, case worker or family who requested it. Campbell says this allows the child to build trust in and bond with their loved one without Cake4Kids imposing.
Even without the gratification of seeing in real time the often emotional reactions of those receiving the free cakes, her team of bakers continues to eagerly monitor their online portal for cake requests and get right to work when one comes through, according to Campbell.
“I can’t stress enough how many wonderful people we have in our chapter who work tirelessly to help us grow and get the word out there and help find more bakers and more agencies and raise funds,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s family has even joined her in the cause, she says, with her children and husband traveling all across Northern Virginia to handle many requests.
“It truly is a team effort. In fact, my son is on his way to Alexandria right now delivering cupcakes for me because I’m on crutches,” Campbell laughed.
Though she initially launched Cake4Kids in Fairfax County as a way to fill the free time she gained from her kids getting older and becoming more independent, Campbell’s charitable passion has turned into a full-time career. Several years ago, Campbell was promoted to a paid position running day-to-day operations at the nationwide level, which she does in addition to volunteering as a Northern Virginia ambassador, she says.
While the promotion means she focuses more on logistics and less on baking, Campbell still remains inspired by the creative ingenuity taken by her bakers after they receive a cake request. She says her favorite cake ever made featured “Spider-Man riding a unicorn.”
“I love it when a theme like that comes in because I can’t wait to see how these creative bakers are going to interpret that and put it on a cake,” Campbell said.
Looking ahead, Campbell hopes to continue spreading the word about Cake4Kids so the chapter can build more partnerships and more effectively “reach every child and family that wants to place a cake request with us,” she says.
“We’re always growing, we’re always looking for more bakers,” Campbell said. “We’re always looking for more families to help.”
Fairfax County’s child welfare system has seen abuse and neglect cases surge over the past year, taxing the dozens of volunteers charged with advocating for those children in foster care and court.
As of May, over 188 new kids have been placed in foster care or under a protective court order since July 1, 2022 — nearly double the 98 cases added the previous year, according to Fairfax CASA, a nonprofit that trains and supervises volunteer, court-appointed special advocates for children.
With a waitlist of about 50 children, as of last week, the organization says it urgently needs more volunteers, particularly Black, Hispanic and Spanish-speaking individuals.
“It’s such an important program,” Fairfax CASA Executive Director Darcy Hubbard said. “It really does change the outcome for our most vulnerable kids, and we desperately need people right now.”
Fairfax CASA currently has about 140 volunteers assigned to cases referred by the Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court. They work with attorneys and social workers to help each child get the services they need, increasing their chances of finding a safe, permanent home, according to the nonprofit.
Cases have become more complex
All of the cases are serious, since an advocate doesn’t get involved until after the court has determined a child was abused or neglected. But the issues facing families have grown in complexity this year, limiting most volunteers to one case at a time, Hubbard says.
About 60% of cases now involve domestic violence, compared to the typical rate of 30%, and cases where substance use or mental health issues are factors have also increased. For example, CASA got five cases with babies born with drugs in their bloodstream last year; this year, there have been 32 babies.
According to Hubbard, struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses have increased for both parents and kids, particularly adolescents, which tracks with Fairfax County and national reports. Alcohol consumption and fentanyl use have also gone up during the pandemic.
“In addition to the trauma and the stuff that’s going on in their families, I think whatever is going on in the world has piled on to all the kids, and for our kids, it hits them extra hard because they don’t have some of the protective factors that other children have,” such as an adult they can rely on or a sense of security at home, Hubbard said.
She emphasized that mental health and substance use issues don’t justify opening a child welfare case, but the county government and court will intervene if those challenges rise to the level of endangering the kid’s wellbeing.
Updated at 11:35 a.m. on 4/27/2023 — With rain in the forecast tomorrow (Friday), the cherry tree plantings have been postponed to May 6, the Tysons Community Alliance announced today.
Earlier: This year’s cherry blossom season has come and gone, but in Tysons, the seeds for future flowers are about to take root.
The Tysons Community Alliance (TCA), the nonprofit community improvement organization formed to replace the Tysons Partnership, has partnered with the National Cherry Blossom Festival to obtain and plant 17 cherry trees around the urban center.
“We chose cherry trees as our first official planting in Tysons because of their beautiful blooms and rich history in the region,” Tysons Community Alliance interim CEO Rich Bradley said. “Moreover, by partnering with the National Cherry Blossom Festival to plant these trees, it allows us to be an official part of what has become a truly regional celebration and one of the largest festivals in the country.”
About 50 volunteers are needed for the plantings, according to the TCA. They can participate in one or both of the two scheduled shifts:
- Location: Scotts Run, 1651 Old Meadow Rd, Tysons, VA, 22102
- Volunteer arrival time: 7:30 a.m.
- Training session: 7:45 a.m.
- Planting begins: 8 a.m.
- Location: I-495 pedestrian bridge (Tysons Corner Center side)
- Volunteer arrival time: 11:30 a.m.
- Training session: 11:45 a.m.
- Planting begins: noon
An official ceremony to celebrate the plantings is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Scotts Run trailhead.
The Arbor Day event extends a collaboration between the TCA and the festival that began earlier this month with the first annual “Pedal with Petals” family bicycle ride. The partnership was announced at the alliance’s official launch in February.
Held from March 20 to April 14 this year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival works with the nonprofit Casey Trees to plant trees around the D.C. area. The TCA will be responsible for maintaining the new trees in Tysons going forward, according to a spokesperson.
The McLean Community Center is on the lookout for local teens who are in tune with what kids these days enjoy.
The community center has launched a new MCC Youth Ambassador initiative that invites students from McLean and Langley high schools to provide input on and promote events at their schools and online.
MCC provides programming for older kids and teens through its Old Firehouse Center (OFC) at 1440 Chain Bridge Road. The facility generally attracts middle school-aged students, but attendance dips once kids enter high school, according to minutes from the governing board’s Sept. 28 meeting.
“I think the reason why is that they felt that it was more of MCC telling them to come — rather than it being a high school-oriented and high school-planned event publicized throughout social media,” said Charlotte Loving, who represents the Langley High School area on the board.
Conceived by Loving and Sarah Tran, who represents McLean High on the board, the initiative is open to all students enrolled in those two schools who live in MCC’s tax district, known as Dranesville Small District 1A.
Here’s more on the volunteer positions from MCC’s announcement, released on Friday (Nov. 18):
Youth Ambassadors will serve as liaisons between community youth and the two youth members of the MCC Governing Board, Sarah Tran (Langley High boundary area) and Charlotte Loving (McLean High boundary area). The ambassadors will promote MCC activities via their social media platforms and through resources at their respective schools. They will also assist in planning events and activities targeted to the youth of McLean in support of acquiring their growing participation in MCC programs. Ambassadors will meet monthly at MCC or the Old Firehouse Center to discuss public feedback and plan future activities.
Applications can be found on the MCC website and sent when completed to MCC General Programs Director Michael Fisher at email@example.com. The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 9.
According to the website, the ambassador program is currently considered a pilot. If deemed successful, it could expand to allow participants from private high schools in the tax district.
Rescue Reston, a volunteer organization that seeks to preserve Reston’s open space, is officially marking its 10-year anniversary.
The grassroots organization plans to host a rally on Oct. 15 from 1-3 p.m. to celebrate its efforts to protect Reston’s recreational open space.
Rescue Reston formed in 2012 in an effort to successfully oppose the redevelopment of Reston National Golf Course. The owners of the golf course sought to redevelop the golf course into a residential development.
“The Rescue Reston 10th Anniversary Rally for Open Space will show all how strong we are together and demonstrate the level of community support there is for protecting Reston’s recreational open spaces for current and future generations,” organizers said on the event page.
Participants will get a chance to learn how to get get involved with the organization.
“In 2012 we coalesced around a common vision and purpose and have moved forward with unwavering community support over the past 10 years,” organizers say.
Here’s more from Rescue Reston’s president Connie Hartke:
Hidden Creek’s owners made their pitch for development a few years ago, but on March 23, 2020, Supervisor Alcorn stated “…there is not support from surrounding communities for changing the comprehensive plan. In fact it is not even close – there are more than five residents against for every supporter of possibly changing the plan. Therefore, I do not support changing the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s current designation of this property as a golf course and consider the matter closed.”
The community around Reston National Golf Course has stayed united against development, even after listening to the RNGC developer-owners pitches for the last 18 months.
The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan for Reston recently went through a 2.5 year update process by a 31-member community task force. Reston currently has a population of slightly over 60,000, but when all the development under the current plan draft is approved and built, the total population will nearly double to an estimated 110,000 to 120,000 people. Over half of the new housing population will be in the Transit Area between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Drive, where it is expected and planned for.
Our designated Biophilic City of Reston continues to grow and evolve. The speculators who own the two golf courses need to stop attempting to upend our careful planning. They bought golf courses.
Since its inception, the organization has fought a battle on two fronts: preserving the Hidden Creek Country Club and Reston National. Reston’s comprehensive plan — the county’s official guiding document on planning and development for the planned community — designates both golf courses for private recreational use and specific to remain as golf course.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Ramón Santiago’s journey to the Little League World Series (LLWS) was a complicated one, filled with struggle as well as joy.
Thanks to the efforts of some supportive parents, the McLean Little League coach’s continued dedication to his team while undergoing treatment for cancer earned him an honorable mention for the 2022 Little League Baseball Coach of the Year Award.
Though they didn’t attend in person, Santiago and the other honorable mentions for the award got shoutouts during a plaque ceremony at the Little League World Series Complex in South Williamsport, Florida, on Saturday (Aug. 20).
“We do it for the kids, but to know that people hold you in that high regard, it really touched my heart, and knowing that they had to put an effort in order to do this, I was over the moon,” Santiago told FFXnow by phone. “I was touched. I even got a little teary-eyed, to be quite honest, which I didn’t expect.”
“He knows these kids very well”
It didn’t take long for Santiago to get involved in McLean Little League (MLL) after moving to the area in 2020.
A Springfield resident as a kid and an alumus of Robert E. Lee High School (now renamed John R. Lewis High School), he was introduced to the league by his neighbor from across the street, Dana Yoo, who has served on the MLL board of directors for the past four to five years.
Santiago initially volunteered as an assistant coach for his son’s T-ball team “just to stay involved with my son,” a decision he has never regretted. But his friendliness, positivity and emphasis on ensuring the kids have fun in addition to learning baseball and life skills quickly endeared him to the other players and their parents.
“He knows these kids very well, each of them, and he encourages them…He makes the children feel good, confident about themselves, and he’s not that kind of strict person,” said Awa Zhu, one of several parents whose kids have stuck with Santiago as he and his son have moved from T-ball up to their current Double-A team, the Storm.
With Santiago and his wife, Sharon, becoming reliable presences at MLL games, including ones not involving their son, it came as a shock when he shared in an summer 2021 email to families that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that spring.
He had never missed a game or practice, despite beginning chemotherapy and other treatments — a trend that continued in the fall of 2021 and spring 2022 seasons. Read More
A one-day beautification project is slated to take place next month at Lake Fairfax in Reston.
The Fairfax County Park Authority is seeking volunteers for a community stewardship celebration at Lake Fairfax Park on Sept. 24.
After a community celebration — which will feature a light breakfast and remarks by local officials — volunteers will begin beautifying the park.
Naturalists will be on site to help volunteers plant trees near the park’s core areas, remove invasive plants, and help with other beautification efforts.
“This is a great way to give of yourself and be part of something much larger,” the park authority said.
The event is in honor of National Public Lands Day, which falls annually on the fourth Saturday of September and encourages volunteers to help out on public lands.
The park is located at 1400 Lake Fairfax Drive and the event is part of FCPA Executive Director Jai Cole’s last stop on her parks tour this year.
Photo via Virginia Tourism Corp.
Real Estate Taxes Due Today — For Fairfax County property owners, it’s the final day to send in the first installment of your annual real estate taxes, which saw significant increases this year even with a 3-cent reduction in the county’s rate. Payments can be made to the Department of Tax Administration by phone, mail, drop box, mobile app and online. [DTA]
Springfield Man Convicted in 2020 Murder — A jury convicted Carlington Fitz Auther Campbell yesterday (Wednesday) for shooting and killing Anthony Sullivan outside a West Springfield apartment in November 2020, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced. Campbell was found guilty of second-degree murder and a weapons charge, which carry possible prison sentences of five to 40 years and three years, respectively. [WUSA9]
Decision on Mosaic District Skating Rink Postponed — “Because of some public pushback, unresolved questions and a legal-advertising snafu, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on July 13 deferred until September its decision on whether to allow temporary ice- and roller-skating rinks in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.” [Sun Gazette]
Fairfax City Veterinarian Helps Ukraine Animal Shelters — “Dr. Courtney Katsur chokes up when she describes what she saw while volunteering for two weeks in Ukraine. The veterinarian with Town & Country Animal Hospital in Fairfax tried for months to find a way to get to the war zone to help animals she was seeing in the news.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Clinics Available for Required Student Vaccinations — “Before students return to school in late August, families can check to ensure their students are up to date on immunizations required at Fairfax County Public Schools. The Fairfax County Health Department is offering appointments at upcoming immunization clinics.” [Patch]
Inova to Rebrand Urgent Care Centers With Partnership — Inova Health System will soon let patients make appointments, check wait times and more through the on-demand health care platform GoHealth Urgent Care. Announced yesterday (Wednesday), the joint venture will convert seven existing Inova Urgent Care locations in Northern Virginia into Inova-GoHealth Urgent Care centers later this year, with additional locations planned. [Inova]
Penn Daw Firefighters Help Mow Lawn — “Recently, Station 11, Penn Daw, B-Shift responded to a routine EMS incident for an elderly gentleman experiencing distress while mowing his lawn on one of the hottest days of the year. The #FCFRD crew assisted the gentlemen, and then completed mowing his lawn prior to leaving.” [FCFRD/Twitter]
Park Authority Fall Registration Begins Next Week — “Fairfax County Park Authority registration for fall classes and programs opens Aug. 2, 2022. Fall classes will be in full swing with programs at Rec Centers, nature centers, historic sites, lakefront parks, golf courses and schools. Virtual classes are available for those who prefer or cannot attend in person.” [FCPA]
McLean Lidl Hosts Kids’ Drawing Contest — “Lidl is holding a drawing competition for children at its new McLean store as part of a benefit for the SHARE of McLean food bank. Starting Wednesday, children can participate in the drawing competition, with a chance to win a $100 Lidl gift card…Once the competition closes on Wednesday, Aug. 3, Lidl will narrow down the entries and ask McLean community members to vote for their favorite piece of art.” [Patch]
It’s Thursday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]
Man Arrested for Fairfax Church Thefts — “On June 28, our officers responded to the Saint Mary’s of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax for a man who stole a purse from a car in the parking lot. The man used stolen credit cards from the purse at several stores nearby. On July 4, the same suspect returned to the church and stole from two donation boxes. At least one stolen check was cashed from donation box.” [FCPD]
Covid Cases Close Reston Pools — “RA is currently experiencing a lifeguard shortage due an uptick in Aquatics staff testing positive for Covid-19. As a result, the Ridge Heights and Upland pools will be closed for the next five days (Friday through Tuesday).” [Reston Association/Twitter]
Silver Line Delays Not Justified, McKay Says — Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says any further delays of Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2 project “will be met with a lot of discontent.” He’s hopeful the rail extension will open this fall but wants to be certain that a $250 million budget increase approved earlier this week will be the last needed payment. [WTOP]
Vienna Lodge Seeks Funds for Repairs — “Vienna Moose Lodge, a fraternal organization that does community service work, launched a Save the Lodge fundraising campaign this week to help remain open and continue its mission…One of the major repairs needed is a new HVAC system in the banquet hall that will cost $35,000.” [Patch]
Ribbon Cut on Reston Affordable Senior Housing — “It was warm this morning but still a great turnout for the ribbon cutting for Hunters Woods Fellowship House! Much needed $26 million renovations provide modern & safer home for many older residents.” [Walter Alcorn/Twitter]
Herndon Company Expands HQ — The defense and intelligence contractor Expedition Technology has signed a lease amendment for its corporate headquarters offices “that will support its current and anticipated growth.” Lasting through June 2033, the new agreement doubles its office space from approximately 32,000 to more than 64,000 square feet and can accommodate up to 170 workers. [CityBiz]
GMU Joins Gun Violence Research Effort — “Fifteen members of a consortium of local schools will pool their resources, researchers and faculty experts in areas including maternal and child health, public policy, mental health, criminology and technology, officials said. The goal is to provide lawmakers and the public with steps they can take to drive down gun violence.” [The Washington Post]
Good Pups Visit McLean Nursing Home — “Fairfax County senior residents are getting some furry visitors at their nursing homes thanks to a group of volunteers at Pets on Wheels…The non-profit is run by volunteers that say pets can be therapeutic for senior citizens.” [ABC7]
Cool Off With Dolley Madison Library — “#Fairfax teens can beat the heat Saturday at our Dolley Madison branch. We will meet at the library before heading to McLean Central Park for a sponge war! Sponges provided. Wear clothes that can get wet (minimum shorts & shirts required).” [Fairfax County Public Library/Twitter]
Cirque du Soleil Makes Tysons Return Next Week — “Cirque du Soleil has become the gold standard of 21st century circus productions…The global brand brings ‘KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities’ to the Under the Big Top tent at Lerner Town Square in Tysons, Virginia from July 29 to Aug. 27.” [WTOP]
It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]
What Was Behind Tuesday’s Storms — “Hundreds of trees were toppled and hundreds of thousands of people lost power Tuesday afternoon and evening as three storm complexes roared across the Washington region. The storms were fueled by hot and humid air that surged into the region, and were powered and sustained by strong high-altitude winds along an approaching cold front.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Firefighter Charged in Fairfax County Armed Robbery — “A D.C. firefighter has been arrested and charged with robbery after police say he brandished a gun and took someone’s property in Fairfax County, Virginia. Fairfax County Police said the robbery happened in May” [WTOP]
Police Investigate Dunkin’ Donuts Burglaries — Fairfax County and Alexandria City police are investigating at least three burglaries of Dunkin’ Donuts in Springfield, Belle Haven and Potomac Yard. The incidents all occurred during the morning of July 7, but police haven’t confirmed whether they were committed by the same people. [ALXnow]
Fairfax County Top in State for Population Growth — “In the last 50 years, Fairfax County saw the largest population increase in Virginia. During that same time, Norfolk saw the largest population decline…Mark Mather at the Population Reference Bureau says the next 50 years are not going to have the same trends.” [WVTF]
Same-Day Voter Registration Coming — “Same-day voter registration is taking effect in the state in time for the congressional midterms in November, a significant shift from the way Virginia elections have worked in the past…The new law will allow voters to fill out a registration form and cast a ballot after that deadline, up to and including Election Day.” [Virginia Mercury]
Food Drive Planned in West Springfield — “@MoveInterstate will be hosting a #FillATruck food drive at their #Springfield HQ located at 5801 Rolling Road, from 07/18-07/29. All donations will be donated to Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) and will help families in the #FairfaxCounty community.” [Supervisor Penny Gross/Twitter]
Langley HS Alum Coaches GMU Volleyball — “Years later, when receiving a second opportunity to join the George Mason University women’s volleyball team, Megan Shiffett Bachmann jumped at the chance and accepted. The 2008 Langley High School graduate recently was named the new head women’s coach of the Division I Mason program.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Park Authority Names Top Volunteers — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will honor 21 individual volunteers named 2022 Outstanding Volunteers and selected by their peers from across the park system…Approximately 4,000 volunteers give of their time and talent annually and take on a multitude of tasks.” [FCPA]
Tysons IT Consultant to Help Startups — “Booz Allen Hamilton has launched a venture capital unit that aims to help young companies speed the development of technologies used by the federal government…Booz Allen Ventures LLC will invest $100 million over five years in firms developing artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and defense technologies, the company said.” [Washington Business Journal]
It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 72. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]