"My daughters are 5 and 7, and they love Alyssa," Sarah says. "Since they idolize her, I thought supporting her could illustrate how a small spark of an idea can ignite change." Sarah wrote a blog post about Alyssa called "The Hero Next Door." It included the backstory of the cupcake business, a copy of her note to Jodi Loper and a link to a speech Alyssa had given at a Boys & Girls Club fundraiser a few weeks before. "In her speech, Alyssa emphasized it only takes one person to make a difference," says Matheny. "I wanted to prove to her -- and to my girls -- that those words were true." Matheny asked her blog followers to contribute to Alyssa's endeavor through the Boys & Girls Club website. As an incentive, she offered batches of her popular vegan cookie balls to five randomly selected people who donated at least one dollar.
Readers of Peas and Thank You from all over opened their wallets, raising $2,600 in Alyssa's name. More than 70 people posted comments about Alyssa's story, calling it "inspirational" and "beautiful." Matheny couldn't believe it. "I was amazed that they cared about a small dental center in Oregon," she says. After two more contributions from club donors on Alyssa's behalf, the final amount neared $5,600. The money was used to buy more than a thousand packets of toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.
Alyssa says she's proud of her accomplishment and has learned that helping other people makes her happy. She's even thinking about teaching a cupcake-making class at the club. And Grandma Earlene has also realized a thing or two. "I originally set out to teach my grandkids a valuable lesson," she says. "But in the end, I was reminded of how wonderful and heartening people can be."
To make a donation in Alyssa's name, visit bgc-salem.org.
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.