Madison Baker Honored for Making Life A Little Sweeter

Julie Olson anonymously baked treats for 11 area nonprofits, touching the lives of many homeless, battered women and children.

Olson is nation's adult winner in Dum Dum Pops® "Make Life a Little Sweeter" contest, winning $1,000 prize and thousands of Dum Dum Pops.

Bryan, OH October 30, 2006: "The Guardian Baker would like to bake for you. What do you need?" That's the message that homeless shelters, battered women's shelters, the Boys and Girls Club and Ronald McDonald House in the Madison, Wis., area started receiving in 2003. Then, hundreds of homemade cookies, expertly decorated cakes and delicious dessert bars would be anonymously delivered to their doors.

Nobody knew who the Guardian Baker was, but all who received her treats were grateful: Children drew her pictures as a thank you for her signature giant peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies; others couldn't believe fresh bakery and artistic cakes were made just for them.

Now, Madison's Guardian Baker is revealed, thanks to a national search by the Spangler Candy Company in its Dum Dum Pops® "Make Life a Little Sweeter" contest. To celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, Spangler conducted a nationwide search for the people whose small acts of kindness had a big impact on others. Madison resident Julie Olson, 51, was nominated by her niece, Donna Hodge of Stratford, Wis., and is the adult category winner. Julie receives $1,000 and a year's supply of Dum Dum Pops.

"I was so tickled that Donna nominated me," Julie said. "She's like a daughter to me, and she loves baking as much as I do." Julie bakes for 11 nonprofits in her town.

Julie did all of the baking herself all weekend long, her only time off from one full-time and two part-time jobs. When her co-workers at WEA Trust, where she works full time, heard what she was doing, "they wanted to get in on the action," Julie said. People donated so many supplies and ingredients that 10 storage containers-full lined the walls of her small apartment. A friend sent out the anonymous requests to the nonprofits, and then others would help with delivery. "Sometimes I would go with them to drop the bakery off, and the volunteers would say, 'Tell the Guardian Baker we said thank you!' never knowing it was me," Julie said.

Then, in July 2004, the Guardian Baker needed her own angels. That's when Julie fell and seriously injured her leg. Twelve days later, while at the medical center for treatment for her leg, she had a pulmonary embolism. "I 'coded' at the medical center and they saved my life. If it would have happened while I was at home, I would not be here today," Julie said. Her health problems didn't end there. Over the next four months, she also had a breast cancer scare and a massive heart attack.

As Julie could no longer bake, her niece Donna picked up the donated supplies and continued the charity baking until the perishable ingredients were used. Her company and coworkers at WEA Trust pulled through for her again, this time helping Julie with paid time off, food and even collecting money to buy her a new bed so she could recuperate. But, there was no one who could bake to the extent that Julie did, and the Guardian Baker was put on hold.

Now, Julie and her friends who miss the Guardian Baker would like to start it up again. "I'm finally feeling better, and I miss the joy that it brought to me. I know I can't bake as much as I used to, but I can teach others. I have a lot of friends who want to help."

When asked how she came up with the idea for the Guardian Baker, Julie said, "I dreamt it. There was a boy in a torn orange t-shirt eating a big cookie. He was looking up, and if I saw him today I would know him, it was that vivid." She went on, "Then I heard the words 'Guardian Baker.' When I woke up, I couldn't stop wondering who the Guardian Baker could be? Then I looked in the mirror and realized it was me."

Julie added, "I feel so blessed. There's a reason I am here, and I hope I have given people an idea of what they can do, too."

About Spangler Candy Company
In business since 1906, Spangler Candy Company makes about 8 million Dum Dum Pops® a day and more candy canes than anyone in the world. Spangler Candy's line of quality confections includes Dum Dum Pops® , Saf-T-Pops® , Circus Peanuts and Marshmallow Treats, Spangler® Candy Canes and Cane Classics®, Dum Dum® Candy Canes, Jelly Belly® Candy Canes, and Valentine, Easter, Halloween & Christmas candies. Spangler also manufactures candy under the Disney® license.

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