Meet Chris Kasparek, the cake boss of Naples, Italy.
He’s a Navy civilian, marathon runner and cake designer extraordinaire. And he’s putting all his talents to work for the USO.
Kasparek hadn’t planned on running a marathon this year, but a few months ago he saw a Facebook post about Team USO and decided he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete for a good cause.
“I had run three [marathons] in the last five years and had felt my body just wasn’t up for it,” he said, “And then I saw the link and was inspired.”
Team USO has a limited number of guaranteed registrations for the New York City marathon for runners who raise a minimum of $3,000. Slots are also available for the Marine Corps marathon, with a fundraising requirement of $1,200 and the Air Force marathon with a $700 requirement.
Kasparek, the Navy’s director of child and youth programs in Naples, will compete in the New York City event, and he knew exactly how he would raise the dough. He put out the word to friends and colleagues, offering one of his famous custom cakes in exchange for a contribution.
The 37-year-old husband and father of two first started baking cakes for his children’s birthday parties, carrying on a tradition passed down by his father.
“My dad had decorated our cakes when we were kids growing up… I watched him and it was just like, ‘I want to do that for my kids.’ They’ve already said they want to do it for their kids.” You name it, he’s baked it—pirates and princesses, penguins and ponies, and every imaginable superhero.
So far, Kasparek has raised $3,360 for the USO, with about $700 coming from his cakes. He’s hoping to push past the $4,000 mark by race time.
He’s been passionate about the USO since working with them last year after the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He was sent to the Seattle airport to help coordinate child care for Japanese families who’d been evacuated to the U.S., and he was immediately impressed by the USO’s efficiency and compassion.
“Through their communications avenues, donations were coming in—diapers, food for the babies, games, coloring books, just everything that would make these families comfortable as they arrived from Japan… Whatever we needed, they found a way to get for us.”
Kasparek feels it’s his turn to give back to the USO and the troops.
He recently added a weight loss challenge to his fundraising efforts. He’s trying to shed 35 pounds by race time. If he doesn’t lose it all, he’ll pay back part of your pledge and cover the difference himself.
“I’ve slowed down on the cakes so I can concentrate on training,” said Kasparek, “Cakes don’t help training.” - Malini Wilkes , USO Director of Story Development