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Cape Breton teen's delicious cupcakes raise enough money to send five children to school in Haiti

Nicholas Kearney, 13, at the stove in his New Waterford home where he and his mother baked 500 cupcakes in August, which he decorated and sold to raise money to sponsor children in Haiti through Hands Across The Sea. In total, the BEC student raised $1,500 — enough to pay one year of school tuition for five children. NICOLE SULLIVAN • CAPE BRETON POST
Nicholas Kearney, 13, at the stove in his New Waterford home where he and his mother baked 500 cupcakes in August, which he decorated and sold to raise money to sponsor children in Haiti through Hands Across The Sea. In total, the BEC student raised $1,500 — enough to pay one year of school tuition for five children. - SaltWire Network

'I find it fun (to bake). It's fun to be able to give to people, too. Especially in times like now.'

- Nicholas Kearney


NEW WATERFORD — Nicholas Kearney was really bored during Nova Scotia's COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

With no school, no Me to We fundraising initiatives and no social outings with friends, the 13-year-old Breton Education Centre student decided to give baking a try to kill the time.

Before the pandemic stay-at-home orders, the youngest of three brothers had little experience in the kitchen besides turning out ready-to-bake box mixes.

His mother Heather Kearney isn't much of a baker either, so Nicholas turned to YouTube and Instagram for tips on how to make the perfect cake, icing ideas and decorating techniques.

"I put in a lot of late nights watching lots of videos," said Nicholas while sitting in the family kitchen where he's spent hours baking over the past five months.

The New Waterford teen also reached out to his grandmother Ann Charmichael who shared a few of her recipes.

Using his grandmother's recipes and the ones he learned from different YouTubers, Nicholas perfected his own recipe by adding secret ingredients and developed his own technique for applying multi-coloured icing.

Nicholas Kearney uses his own technique to create a rainbow effect for his cupcake decorating, drawing on tips he learned from different YouTube videos. CONTRIBUTED  - Nicole Sullivan
Nicholas Kearney uses his own technique to create a rainbow effect for his cupcake decorating, drawing on tips he learned from different YouTube videos. CONTRIBUTED - Nicole Sullivan

Then the community-minded teen decided to use his new-found skills to raise money for a non-profit in Haiti called Hands Across The Sea.

Deciding a cupcake sale would be easier than selling cakes, he launched his bake sale on Facebook.

At a cost of $10 for six, customers chose either vanilla or chocolate cupcakes and their icing flavour.

Heather Kearney said some people have told her Nicholas' salted caramel icing was better than a professional baker's they had tried.

"We're just so proud of him, everytime he comes up with an idea like this ... but you can't help but be a little nervous ... hoping they like (the product). Feedback was great," said Heather who was recruited as her son's kitchen assistant.

"A bunch of people reordered," said Nicholas' father Sandy Kearney, who along with his two older sons, was appointed to the delivery team.

Nicholas' goal was to raise $300 for HATS, the cost to sponsor one child to attend the HATS school which is open to anyone along with the children living in the orphanage.

Heather Kearney, second from left, has volunteered at Hands Across The Sea orphanage four times. In 2018, she visited with her eldest son Mackenzie, right. With the Kearneys are Moise and J.J., who live at the orphanage. - Contributed
Heather Kearney, second from left, has volunteered at Hands Across The Sea orphanage four times. In 2018, she visited with her eldest son Mackenzie, right. With the Kearneys are Moise and J.J., who live at the orphanage. - Contributed

In the end, he raised $1,500 — enough to send five children to school for the year.

"I find it fun (to bake). It's fun to be able to give to people, too. Especially in times like now. It kind of makes them happy and it makes me happy to give to them."

Response to the fundraising initiative was so good that within 24 hours, 500 cupcakes were sold and sales had to be closed.

During the long weekend in August, Nicholas and Heather started baking — during a heat wave that left them sweating bullets but didn't stop them. Spending 12 hours in the kitchen that first day, the mom and son team made 300 cupcakes and took another two days to finish off the orders.

During a 2018 trip to Hands Across The Sea in Haiti, Magdala, the youngest child living in the orphanage, bonded with Mackenzie Kearney who was then 16. - Contributed
During a 2018 trip to Hands Across The Sea in Haiti, Magdala, the youngest child living in the orphanage, bonded with Mackenzie Kearney who was then 16. - Contributed

"I was excited by how much people liked my cupcakes," Nicholas said. "And it was exciting to see how much we had done in two to three days and how much we accomplished as a family."

The Kearneys weren't surprised their youngest son wanted to do something to give back because he's always been community-minded and socially aware.

In Grade 4, Nicholas started a bottle recycling program at Mount Carmel Elementary School and donated the money through the school's Me to We Club. The initiative led to a then 10-year-old Nicholas being chosen to speak at the annual Me to We event.

Nicholas chose HATS as the recipient of his cupcake fundraiser because his mother and oldest brother Mackenzie have volunteered with the organization in Haiti, which is something he plans to do as soon as it's safe to travel again.

"It's good for me to learn about how other people live and to realize that not everyone has it the same as we do."

Heather Kearney, right, at the Hands Across The Sea orphanage in Haiti with founder Karen Huxter who is from Springdale, N.L. CONTRIBUTED  - Nicole Sullivan
Heather Kearney, right, at the Hands Across The Sea orphanage in Haiti with founder Karen Huxter who is from Springdale, N.L. CONTRIBUTED - Nicole Sullivan

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