Gracie’s Promise still going strong even after Saturday fire damages cakes for annual fundraiser

February 5, 2019

TORRINGTON, Wyo. — While owners of Roy’s Cold Storage have a long haul ahead of them as they attempt to recover from the losses resulting from a Feb. 2 fire, at least one organization suffered a loss and is moving forward with assistance from others who care about people in need.

The fire also took out cakes ready to sell and deliver for the annual Gracie’s Promise Valentine cake bake sale.

Now in its 10th year, Gracie’s Promise is a local nonprofit organization that was created to help people in need of financial assistance while loved ones undergo medical treatment.

According to Torrington resident and founder Bud Watson, the idea came to him after his great-granddaughter, Gracie, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 11 months old.

“They lived in Casper and the hospital was in Denver,” Watson explained. “It’s hard for a family to deal with, especially young families who are just getting started. The doctors wanted them to be within 50 miles of the Denver hospital. It wasn’t only the gas to get there, but it required moving and other expenses.

“We thought about other families who had the same problem, and how they deal with it,” he said, explaining the next step toward Gracie’s Promise.

Watson contacted All Saints Episcopal Church in Torrington, which was able to tap into a church-sponsored fund, “Mustard Seed,” which is meant to help community people. That was the first source of financial assistance for Gracie’s Promise.

The project has grown, and in addition to an annual decorating contest of the Christmas Festival of Trees and the 5k run and bike ride, Watson donates his artwork to use on note cards that are sold to the public.

According to Watson, the organization has helped 75 families, with 16 currently on the list. Funding is available for transportation, lodging and other necessities that often fall outside the regular options for assistance.

Children must be 18 years old or younger, and depending on the situation, aid is available as long as needed, usually six months to a year, although one case was for 3½ years.

Watson emphasized that the organization is made up of volunteers.

“No one is paid a penny,” he said. “All of the funds go to families and office materials, such as postage, envelopes and paper.”

Information on the group, and applications, are available online at graciespromise.org. The application is simple with only the patient’s name, a sponsor’s name, a letter from a doctor, the problem and probable length of treatment. Watson emphasized the importance that the organization puts on confidentiality. He added that if circumstances develop, individuals can sign up again later for assistance.

“Word is spreading everywhere about Gracie’s Promise,” Watson said Monday morning, hand near his cell phone, anticipating the next caller offering help or asking for information after the story of the fire had spread.

Making this all happen is a small army of volunteers in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, from Denver to Rawlins, Wyoming.

The Valentine cake bake sale is, for the most part, a local effort. Ingredients, frosting, boxes and other items are purchased locally as much as possible. About 20 people pitch in for each of three sessions of mixing, baking and decorating the 6-inch heart-shaped cakes. Only two people are in charge of the baking to insure uniform results of the baked goods.

The cakes are baked and decorated at the Rendezvous Center on the Goshen County Fairgrounds in Torrington. Two volunteer groups pay the rent to use the kitchen, and a total of about 50 volunteers, ranging from retirees to teenagers, make the whole thing happen.

“We started with 27 cakes nine years ago,” Watson said. “When we got to orders for 100 cakes, we started using the commercial kitchen at the fairgrounds.

“There were about 500 cakes (lost) in the fire,” Watson said. “It’s too late to replace this year’s cakes, but some had been delivered and we have a few that were ready to be delivered for the early orders.

“Even though this has been hard for us, our main concern is for Jackie (Rush), who lost her business,” Watson said.