HELPING HANDS: The ladies from Shell's Team Cupcake ahead of one of their fundraising movie nights.
HELPING HANDS: The ladies from Shell's Team Cupcake ahead of one of their fundraising movie nights.

How cupcakes are helping to sweeten a tough time

ONE local charity impacting the lives of people in our city who have been diagnosed with cancer has offered QT Magazine an insight into the work of its volunteers.

In 2009, a group of women gathered to provide support for a friend who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Since then, the women have founded the not-for-profit organisation Shell's Team Cupcake.

Those women are current Team Cupcake president Janette Czernia, secretary Anne Wright, treasurer Sandra Bay and vice-president Carmen Wojcicki.

"It all began when we were trying to help our friend Shelly, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer," Janette said.

"The goal was to simply make her life a bit more comfortable for a mum with young kids and help get some money in the bank for them.

"Sadly, she passed away, and it was discussed about doing something to continue the work for other people in the same situation across the Ipswich area. So, Shell's Team Cupcake was born."

From movie nights to bingo games, to golf days and charity trivia nights, the women at Team Cupcake are tireless in their efforts to raise money for people.

"Initially the goal was to raise money for mums who need help dealing with cancer and to help them connect with people who can help them at such a difficult time," Janette said.

"There is government help but it's not immediate. Centrelink can take up to 26 weeks to get funding to you and we help fill that gap in between.

"People are sick, their life has changed overnight, and they are then facing weeks, months with no job, no money and little assistance.

"We've had over 100 referrals since June last year. Each family has a different need. Some need a basket of food, others need help with getting to treatment, cleaning, rental contributions. There are so many ways they need help."

In recognition of the work they do, The Queensland Times recently made a donation of $2500 to assist, and it's money well spent.

"It's how we respond to the call for help that is unique each time," Janette said.

"A $50 hamper on the table can make a world of difference. Just to have a chat and see how they are going. Often people with an illness just need an outlet."

Sandra said she had been very lucky in life and this was her way of giving back to the community.

"One of the things we do is cook food for families," she said.

"I will spend all day cooking and my long-suffering husband will drive me to deliver them. It's something I like to do.

"Janette is the powerhouse, she is organising fundraisers, movie nights and we all do what we can.

"We all know someone we've lost to cancer."

One of the projects the team is involved in is Meal Train, a website that began in the US where you can register to deliver meals to someone in need.

"I know of people who have had someone rock up with meals that they've never met," Janette said.

"It doesn't have to be a big meal.

"If you're making pasta, make some extra and put it in a takeaway container."

The team also gets support from other local groups.

"We get great support from other community groups like the Swichettes, and what has been so well received is that hospitals are now coming to us," Anne said.

"There are people who need to go to the PA Hospital for treatment and can't get there. They can't afford public transport so they miss the treatment.

"It's the definition of a broken system that a charity has to step in for this.

"There is help, but you have to meet so much criteria it's ridiculous. The system is awful, but Team Cupcake can help where we can."

To volunteer or assist, search for Shell's Team Cupcake on Facebook or email teamcupcakeinc@

The team from Shell's Team Cupcake with Sonia and Kelly
The team from Shell's Team Cupcake with Sonia and Kelly Darren Hallesy

Sonia's Story

When she was diagnosed with cancer, it turned into the 'Perfect Storm' of events for the proud grandmother from North Booval.

The same week her daughter was also diagnosed with cancer and in the following weeks Sonia had to deal with two cases of illness, loss of work, loss of income, a divorce and begin treatment. Here she shares her story.

To be honest, the fact that my daughter had been diagnosed with cancer at the same time as me was the scariest part. Once diagnosed I was put in touch with Ipswich hospital and up until then I'd been working but didn't have any super or insurance to fall back on. I wasn't on Centrelink, and my husband worked overseas but was still helping with the bills…right up until we started to go through a divorce.

All this happened at the same time.

I'd started chemo, while dealing with everything including a property settlement. I then was given the details about Team Cupcake and after a phone call they gave me a gift voucher, which allowed me to get some groceries in, and it was a godsend.

Dealing with Centrelink was a battle, but I got there in the end. Often I'd have to go to Springfield for treatment and I didn't have a car. The team put me onto ComLink who helped out, and often they would drive me themselves. I did miss a few days of treatment as I couldn't get there.

Then they made meals and brought them around, so much food! I still have some in my freezer, and they really helped as well. Getting home from hospital and not having to cook was wonderful, it made such a difference. To be honest thinking about my daughter Kelly kept my mind off my illness, that's what kept me going, thinking all the time 'I have to be strong for her'.

I had a mastectomy, and things are looking up, but Kelly is still undergoing treatment.

I see things totally differently than I did a year ago. I wake up in the morning, and this sounds like a cliché, but the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. I think now 'what have I got to complain about?'… there's people much worse off than me.

I'm going to Perth to see my new third grandchild for the first time, and the my fourth is on the way, then next year Kelly and I are doing a cruise next year for the first time.

Team Cupcake were great. They helped with groceries, transport to treatment, and food drop-offs. It all helps, every little bit helps … I'm just so grateful to them.

I'd say to anyone in Ipswich, volunteer. It all helps. I plan to do it, you just don't realise how the smallest thing can make such a difference to someone's life when they have so much to deal with already.


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