Bill Hanisch of Hanisch Bakery in Red Wing, Minnesota wanted to do something for the seniors missing out on their graduations

By Mary Honkus
June 01, 2020 03:59 PM
Courtesy Hanisch Bakery

High school graduates in the Red Wing, Minnesota area have been surprised by some very special sweet treats over the last few weeks.

Bill Hanisch and his team at Hanisch Bakery have spent the last five weeks baking and decorating cakes for high school seniors whose graduation ceremonies have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of this week, Hanisch will have donated over 1,000 cakes to graduates in 12 towns close to Red Wing.

“I just figured I needed to do something cool for these kids, and the thing that I relate to graduation is a cake,” Hanisch told Better Homes & Gardens. “So we started baking.”

Originally, Hanisch planned to just make a 7-inch, personalized cake with an icing diploma for each of the 200 graduating seniors from Red Wing High School, where he also graduated from in 1998. But the project quickly gained a flood of support from people all around the community, resulting in countless requests and donations, not just from Red Wing.  "It’s been awesome. It’s been so fun to tell the story about how it started, from just making cakes for my own town to how it’s grown," Hanisch tells PEOPLE. "Now I’ve seen other bakeries doing it, too. It’s been really cool."

Courtesy Hanisch Bakery
Courtesy Hanisch Bakery

Graduates, their families, and their educators have all shown their appreciation for Hanisch's efforts to spark joy during this trying time. "It didn’t really hit me until we delivered our first cake and a faculty member started crying," he tells PEOPLE.  "I was like, ‘Wow, this is huge.’"

Hanisch Bakery isn't making any profit from the cake project — all donations (over $10,000) have gone towards paying all 21 of the bakery's employees during the pandemic and buying ingredients to make the cakes, according to Better Homes & Gardens.

Courtesy Hanisch Bakery

The bakery has only been delivering cakes to schools and graduates within a 45-minute radius, so they're able to easily make deliveries and support the community that has supported them since the bakery opened — and they've hit just about every school in the surrounding area. Hanisch tells PEOPLE that they exceeded the 1,000th-cake mark on Friday after receiving an order for 235 cakes for South Saint Paul Secondary.

While the bakery doesn't ship nationwide, you can still contribute to their incredible project through their Paypal fundraiser.