For her 10th birthday party, Annie Toussaint asked all her friends to bring presents for the animals at Wayside Waifs instead of something for her.
Now, the 13-year-old Lenexa girl is the organization’s top individual fundraiser for its Strutt with Your Mutt run/walk and will take her second turn as grand marshal at this year’s event in Brookside on Saturday.
This year, she has raised about $3,000 with cupcake/lemonade stands to help the no-kill animal shelter.
When she started fundraising, Annie decided she didn’t want to go door to door and ask for pledges.
Instead, she set up a lemonade and dog treat stand in her driveway with signs saying the sales would benefit Wayside Waifs.
“People will just drive by and give me $20 bills and say, ‘Here, it’s for the dogs,’ ” Annie said.
Annie got the idea for stand shortly after her 10th birthday, when she received a cookbook for organic dog treats and thought she might make some to raise some money for Wayside Waifs. Her dog, Maya, came from the shelter.
“Wayside Waifs is a really good animal shelter,” Annie said. “…They take in animals from other shelters that would’ve had to kill them. They take them in and take care of them.”
The first year, she raised about $700. After that, she started sending out fliers to tell people what she was doing; the next year, Annie collected about $1,000 for the shelter.
By the time she got ready for her third year of fundraising, it had evolved into making sweets for people.
“I really liked baking, and I started watching the Food (Network) a lot more. ‘Cupcake Wars’ is a fun show to watch,” Annie said.
Her $2 cupcakes are well-known at her school, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Lenexa, and around her neighborhood. Annie bakes them in 14 varieties: The red velvet one go very quickly. To decorate them, she uses skills she learned from taking a class at Michael’s Arts & Crafts.
Although she only does her cupcake fundraising in August and September each year, Annie has baked several hundred cupcakes already this year. The baking always starts just after her birthday in August. Her last stand of the year was last Saturday.
“I think she is an incredible young lady,” said Megan Harding, development associate at Wayside Waifs and event coordinator for Strutt with Your Mutt. “She has done this completely independently. It’s not her parents; it’s all been her idea. It’s all been her work and her thought process.”
Annie’s parents, Susan and Dave Toussaint, contribute to her efforts by paying for the cost of the cupcake ingredients so that all the proceeds from the cupcakes can go to Wayside Waifs. Annie’s brother Zack is her official cupcake taste tester.
“It’s her passion. She always wants to do it. She’s always pushing us to do it,” said Susan Toussaint. “She’s had wonderful friends come over and help her bake the cupcakes and sell them the next day.”
In the future, Annie hopes to channel her interest in helping animals into a career as a veterinarian at a zoo.
As part of the publicity for the event, Annie has filmed a TV commercial with the event’s emcee, KMBC-TV anchor Lara Moritz. Annie also appears in an Internet ad with Maya on several local radio station websites, including www.kmbz.com.