September 01, 2008 12:00 PM

Toni Poulos, 40

Trenton, Ga.

After taking in a foster child a year ago, Toni Poulos baked a heart-shaped cake for the girl’s eighth birthday—and watched her burst into tears. “She’d never had a birthday cake,” Poulos recalls. “I felt like an angel tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘You can help.'”

Since then, through her nonprofit Cakes for Kids (www.freecakesforkids.com), the mom of seven has baked more than 200 birthday confections for needy children. Promoting her service through a free ad in the local newspaper, Poulos spends up to $30 per cake and 60 hours a week in her kitchen, whipping up desserts with superhero and princess themes—whatever the child wants. “It’s their day,” she says.

Inspired by her Web site, women in four other states have started up similar efforts—no surprise to Georgia social worker Tricia Jackson, who works with foster kids. “Toni’s not just making cakes,” she says. “She’s making memories.” Joshua, 8, was overwhelmed when he got a Spider-Man cake by Poulos for his birthday in July. “It was,” he says, “the coolest cake ever.”

Know a hero? Send suggestions to HEROESAMONGUS@PEOPLEMAG.COM

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