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United Way's Piece of Cake Celebrity Cake Decorating raises funds for Backpack Buddies

Twelve cake decorating teams participated in the first "Piece of Cake" decorated cake contest Wednesday to benefit the United Way Backpack Buddies Program at Marketplace Foods. Sandy Church, left, and Merry Lynn Wenaas, representing the Bemidji Soup Kitchen, create a colorful masterpiece. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The United Way of Bemidji Area held the first annual Piece of Cake Celebrity Cake Decorating Contest and Auction, sponsored by MarketPlace Food and Drug Wednesday, March 30, and raised more than $1,770 for the Backpack Buddies program.

Eleven local celebrity teams had 45 minutes to design a one-of-a-kind cake. There were no rules except that they had to use the quarter sheet cake provided to them as part of their creation. At the end of the 45 minutes, the cakes were auction off live with a package of other items the teams had donated. Some of the items that were packaged with the cakes included Twins tickets, gift cards, hotel packages, entertainment tickets, a Kindle, Bemidji State University basketball items and a gourmet food basket.

The cake designs up for auction ranged from a gigantic sand castle surround by Lake Bemidji, Twins cake, a red and black plaid cake with Paul and Babe on it and Easter and springtime cakes.

Paul Bunyan Broadcasting's Have Your Cake and Tickets, too, won the People's Choice award raising $219 in audience votes for their cake. Overall the People's Choice contest brought in $661.42.

RP Broadcasting's Mix Morning Stretch received the champion trophy. Their radio cake, that actually worked, along with their package of items valued at more than $400, brought in the highest bid, $195.

The Backpack Buddies program was developed to help ensure that low income and children living in poverty in the Bemidji school district have access to nutritious, non-perishable and easy-to-prepare food at times when other resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations. The intended results of the program are that children will no longer experience hunger or food insecurities and, their attendance, behavior, academics, social interaction, health and attention span will improve. With support from North Country Health Services Foundation and North Country Food Bank, and backpacks from Paul Bunyan Communications, the program is currently serving 103 students at JW Smith Elementary, a school with more than 75 percent of students enrolled in the district's free and reduced lunch program. Next school year, the United Way hopes to secure enough support for the program to impact the lives of 300 students by continuing the program at JW Smith and expanding it to other district schools where students are at the greatest risk for experiencing food insecurity and hunger.

For more information about the Backpack Buddies program or United Way, visit