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Cookies for a Cause

By NICK NARIGON

cookies
The Jodi and Denny Ballard family has undertaken Cookies for a Cause, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. Brayden Ballard, 4, was born with a congenital heart defect. Pictured are, from left, Nolan, Jodi, Denny and Brayden Ballard.

Brayden Ballard, 4, Amana, was born with a rare heart defect that could have been fatal.

So far Brayden has been one of the lucky ones, and he has not required surgery. The experience led his mother, Jodi Ballard, to look for ways to help out those not as fortunate.

Last year, Jodi began “Cookies for a Cause.” With the help of friends and family, she baked 64 dozen sugar cookies and sold them for $10 a dozen. The endeavor raised nearly $700 for the American Heart Association.

Cookies for a Cause was so successful in its first year, that Jodi heated up the oven and is doing it again for Valentine’s Day.

“This gives us hope that successful research will be done that positively impacts (Brayden’s) future and the future of other children,” Jodi said.

Brayden was born with “congenitally corrected transposition of the great arteries.” Prior to his birth, doctors told Jodi and her husband, Denny Ballard, that Brayden would be born with a congenital heart disorder. They would not know the severity until after he was born.

Essentially, the major arteries in Brayden’s heart were reversed, meaning they were pumping blood in the wrong direction.

Lori said they expected Brayden would require heart surgery within the first year or 18 months of his life.

However, when Brayden was born, they learned that the main ventricles of his heart were also transposed. This meant his heart works properly, only his blood flow is the complete opposite of everybody else.

“He is doing awesome. We have been very fortunate,” Jodi said.

Four years later, Brayden has not required surgery. They do have to be on alert for any infections or traumas that would be undue strain on Brayden’s heart.

Through the experience, Jodi and Denny became aware of the American Heart Association, and they met other children who were dealing with far more difficult situations.

Looking to help others, Jodi organized a team that participates in the AHA Heart Walk every year in Cedar Rapids. Last year the team raised over $3,000.

Three years ago Jodie was the guest speaker at the annual AHA Gala. Brayden, then 1 ½ years old, was a featured survivor for the heart walk and dressed up in a tuxedo for the event.

Last year the family decided to do another fundraiser on their own.

Since February is National Heart Month, Jodi decided she would like to do something that ties in with Valentine’s Day.

She decided baking cookies was something she could do, so she modified her mother’s sugar cookie recipe (Jodi said the recipe is a secret) and began making dough. Her father rigged a special dough-rolling machine to make the process easier.

Jodi sent out an e-mail to her friends and family about what she was doing. The word spread like wildfire and within two days, she had already received 30 orders.

Jodi, along with help from her immediate family, including her oldest son, Nolan, 5, baked 64 dozen cookies, all at their own cost.

“I did a lot last year, and it was fun,” said Nolan.

This year, Jodi has received even more outside help. Frontier Natural Products Co-op, Norway, donated all of the ingredients for the cookies.

Jodi hung posters and order forms in the local area and the Cedar Rapids area, and so far has received 75 orders. She said she expects to receive more.

This Friday, Jodi and her parents will hold a baking party, and then next week they will hold a decorating party. She the trick is making each cookie the exact same size.

“Hopefully we will be a well-oiled machine by the time it is over,” Jodi said.

Ani Kruse, regional vice president for the American Heart Association, said Jodi Ballard has volunteered for the association a number of years. The Cookies for a Cause endeavor is just another way in which Jodi has been extremely helpful, she said.

“This is a case of somebody doing something positive and expecting nothing in return,” Kruse said. “We are extremely grateful for all she has done to create awareness for children’s heart disease.

The deadline to order cookies from Cookies for a Cause was Monday, Feb. 1. However, the Ballards plan to do the project again next year, and donations to the American Heart Association are welcome at any time.

UPDATED February 3, 2010 11:10 AM

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