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Bakes for Breast Cancer 

Funding new research & treatment for breast cancer, one sweet treat at a time.

This nonprofit organization takes a very unique approach to fundraising for breast cancer research and treatment. Big Y has supported Bakes for Breast Cancer through its Community Bag Program.

Tell us about Bakes for Breast Cancer.

Our mission is to end breast cancer by funding cancer prevention and treatment research. The money we raise enables oncologists to start their research.

Bakes for Breast Cancer grew out of our predecessor nonprofit organization, The Eva Brownman Breast Cancer Fund at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, founded in 1990. Having lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 16, I dedicated myself to fundraising for breast cancer research and have been doing that for 30 years.

I wanted to do something that fit into people’s lives, where anyone across any socio-economic demographic could make a difference.

Initially, we would do black tie events and fashion shows, very traditional forms of fundraising. But then someone challenged me to come up with a new event, and I always thought of baking with my mother as being something special. Plus, I was always interested in desserts. I wanted to do something that fit into people’s lives, where anyone across any socio-economic demographic could make a difference.

We started as Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer in 1999 and evolved into Bakes for Breast Cancer when we expanded beyond Boston. We now have week-long events across Massachusetts, Cape Code & Islands and Rhode Island. Beginning in 2023, we will include Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

During the weeks of our events, participating restaurants, bakeries, cafes, chocolatiers, sweet shops and grocery stores donate a portion of their dessert sales to Bakes for Breast Cancer. You go into any participating business, buy a dessert and the money you spend on the dessert goes to breast cancer research.

We rely on volunteers. They are the backbone of our organization, and we believe that everyone makes a difference.

What services do you provide to the community?

Bakes for Breast Cancer funds bridge grants to dedicated oncologists at the earliest stages of clinical research. A bridge grant is the first grant a researcher gets before they can attract more substantial funding. Our medical advisory board determines where our funding will go.

There’s no question that there has been a lot of progress, but our job is not done. We won’t put our feet up anytime soon, I’m afraid.

For example, we provided the seed money for Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer in men and women. As another example, we are currently funding a clinical trial with Dr. Rachel Freedman at Dana-Farber, and we will continue to fund her work with older women. Breast cancer research in women 70+ is the most underfunded age group, even as they face worse outcomes than their younger counterparts.

As a child growing up, I thought science would have all the answers by the time I was older. There’s no question that there has been a lot of progress, but our job is not done. We won’t put our feet up anytime soon, I’m afraid.

What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?

What we’re doing is a very unusual approach to fundraising. I just felt that dessert is the last thing you remember from what you eat. And it always leaves you with a sweet taste.

Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

What we are doing really resonates with people. Many years ago, I bumped into a woman at a bakery during one of our events. Our signs were on this bakery’s counter, and she said, not knowing who I was, “This is the most amazing thing.” She was a breast cancer survivor. Now she and other survivors go out together during our event week and try someplace they haven’t been so they can buy a dessert. It’s very special to her, very meaningful and very personal. You don’t know who you will touch with something that you create.

Then there was a post on Instagram. A woman shared a dessert she was having at the restaurant Ostra in Boston last year. She was a breast cancer survivor with a daughter in college who then commented on the post. It was a full connection for what she and her daughter experienced as she went through breast cancer.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

That’s hard to say; maybe it’s still to come. You don’t know what the next research is going to do and the difference it’s going to make. Will it be from Dr. Goel’s research on why immunotherapy didn’t work on breast cancer as well as it did on other cancers? Will it be from Dana-Farber’s clinic for the older generation with breast cancer, the second in the country? Who knows what’s next?

What do you want people to know about Bakes for Breast Cancer?

We need everyone to help!

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Big Y Community Bag Program?

These funds are helping us expand into new markets. In 2023, we’re able to extend our events to Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire.

Carol Brownman Sneider is Founder and President of Bakes for Breast Cancer. Passionate about fueling the search for a cure for over 30 years, she gives 100% of herself to raising money for breast cancer research.

Published February 7, 2023.