With aprons on and armed with piping bags, whisks and plenty of chocolate, seven veterans put their baking and decorating skills to the test in a Bake Off style competition at a West Yorkshire school.
The participating wounded, sick and injured men and women, who are all receiving support from Help for Heroes northern Recovery Centre Phoenix House in Catterick, received top tips from 2015 Great British Bake Off contestant Sandy Docherty as they created their own show-stopper cakes.
The event was held at Titus Salt School, Baildon, Shipley, where Sandy works as a child welfare officer and runs the after-school cookery club. It launched the Charity’s Bake for Heroes campaign in Yorkshire. Running from April 16 - May 2 across the country, Help for Heroes is encouraging people to get baking and raise some dough for our heroes.
Each veteran was paired with a school pupil and they soon got to work baking, decorating and coming up with themes for their cakes. Ingredients were provided by Tesco.
Sandy, from Bradford, gave the bakers an icing demonstration during the event. She was the fourth contestant to leave the Great British Bake Off. She was praised by baking queen Mary Berry during the series for her “breathtaking” biscuits. She has now set up a website called Baking Down Barriers, which aims to get people cooking and baking regardless of background and personal circumstance.
“I’m all about getting people to have a go,” she said. “If it goes a bit wrong, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a great vessel for wellbeing. It’s a communicator with minimum effort. When I was asked to work with Help for Heroes, I just saw the opportunity to join the dots; what better opportunity for the kids here to meet Veterans but also for the Veterans to see how much admiration the kids have for them.”
Sandy said she found the day very emotional. “Today has surpassed what I thought it could. The veterans have had a lot of fun, the kids have had a tremendous time and the feel good factor in and around school has been lovely. I just feel proud of what I have helped pull together and I’m very overwhelmed.”
Veteran Carl White of Catterick was crowned the overall winner with student Finley Clarke for their beautifully decorated Easter cake. Carl served 14 years with the Royal Corps of Signals and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said it had been an interesting day and he was thrilled to win. His prize included a hamper of baking ingredients from Lewis & Cooper in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Finley won two tickets to a Bradford City Football Club home game.
Carl said: “I’ve not baked with a child for many years or, in fact, baked for many years. The cake came from an idea I did about 10 years ago with Kit Kats around it and I’m really pleased I’ve won. Sandy is fantastic and a great leader. If she does the Bake Off again, I hope she wins. Now I’m single, I tend not to bake anymore but now I have this lovely baking hamper, I’ll crack on at the weekend and bake some cakes.”
For veteran Denise Kidger of Seaham, County Durham, the event helped bring out her creative side.
She was medically discharged with shoulder, neck, back and knee problems as well as stress and anxiety from the Adjacent General Corps in 2014 after 22 years-service.
“Today has been brilliant as it’s taken my mind off everything,” she said. “I love interacting with kids and working as a team. It’s brought my creative side out. We came up with a theme and went with that. I’m very proud of it actually and I’m not proud of a lot of things these days.”
For Lisa Heath, who was medically discharged from the RAF in 1996 with back injuries, Help for Heroes has given her the confidence to try new activities. She said: “I’ve just gone from not being able to do anything sat on my sofa on my own at home to now training for a triathlon and I’ve got friends again. I’m getting more confident and I’m beginning to be able to go out on my own. I’m laughing again. I was really nervous about today but it’s been brilliant. I love being with kids and I feel really good.”
Ian Morrel, Titus Salt School Head Teacher, said: “I am delighted that our school is a part of the Bake for Heroes campaign because it is about sharing and being part of something good and meaningful. “The day brought together different groups from different backgrounds of different ages in a common goal of having fun and sharing experiences whilst baking – what could be better than that?”
To register your Bake for Heroes event, and to receive a free fundraising pack, please click here.
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