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Valentine cake ball treats latest fundraiser for Spece family’s new home

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 03/15/2013 10:22 AM

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INDEPENDENCE, Iowa —Cake balls, 1,400 dozen in all, are the latest Building a Dream in the Country effort to raise the $200,000 needed to build a home for the Sue Spece family.

Kathy Finholt, one of the organization's founders and owner of Kathy's Kakes in Independence, led the volunteers who worked Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Sundays since January to roll and freeze the cake centers. As Valentine's Day approached, volunteers began dipping the balls in chocolate and packaging them in red boxes with a cellophane heart-shaped window.

Many of the cake balls had been sold prior to Valentine's Day.

Finholt, who bakes and decorates cakes for all occasions, started making balls as a way to use cake scraps trimmed off cakes.

"But we were baking cakes to turn into cake balls for the fundraiser," she said with a grin.

Building a Dream in the Country, which started a year ago, raised $92,000 prior to the cake ball sale.

Several people in Independence had nominated the Spece family for ABC television's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show. When another Iowa family was chosen to be featured, they took matters into their own hands. They surprised the Speces at a party by showing them plans for a new home with state-of-the-art features to make life easier and safer.

Sue Spece's three adult children are wheelchair-bound due to a form of muscular dystrophy, and their childhood home isn't appropriately equipped to handle wheelchairs. There are no lifts and the gravel driveway is open to the elements. In spite of enormous obstacles, all three Spece children have earned college degrees and own their own businesses. One of these businesses, In the Country Garden and Gifts, is adjacent to the new home site and is run by Sue and oldest son, Josh, a nationally recognized expert on hostas.

"The Spece family works really hard but they still need a little help," said Finholt. "We have been surprised and thrilled by the amount of community involvement that continues, and by the generosity of our friends, neighbors and complete strangers. This has really been a wonderful experience."

Larry Hickey from Hickey Excavating and Eastern Iowa Septic donated all the labor. Chris Hallett from Webb Concrete hauled rock for free, and Paul Niemann Construction discounted the rock.

Twenty-six community groups in the region have either held independent fundraisers or assisted. Silent auctions, poker runs and tip nights added thousands to the total. Audrey Gibbs and her children from West Union, who were featured on ABC television's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, hosted an open house tour of their new home to raise funds for the Speces.

"It has been challenging without the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition TV cameras and charitable tax deductions," said Finholt. "But we are all in it for the long haul. Even after the home is built, we'll have an annual fundraiser to help with the property taxes and expenses."

Finholt said they have had great success selling cake balls and papercrete snowmen at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids. Building a Dream will be crafting papercrete angels for Mother's Day, as well as more snowmen.

A video about the Building a Dream in the Country project is available at, and on the group's Facebook page. Donations to Building a Dream in the Country can be made at any BankIowa location or mailed to BankIowa, PO Box 229, Independence, Iowa 50644.