By: Ryan Barton ’24
Looking around the room, you can see hundreds of people who are giddy with excitement, staring at the rows of candies. Where does magical event take place?
The Christmas season is coming up, and with that comes an event filled with thousands of candies and the beloved dessert, gingerbread. After two hard years, Cookies and Castles is back!
Cookies and Castles, an event at Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, is an all-out gingerbread house decorating event. After 2 years of having to do “to-go houses”, which contain a gingerbread house, icing, and a selection of candy due to Covid, it will be back at Scottish-Rite hospital.
Jenny Starcher, a regular at this event, said, “My first experience with Cookies and Castles was during the holidays in 2016. The event is so well organized, very festive and the selection of candy used in decorating gingerbread houses is amazing. Cookies and Castles has become a wonderful tradition that me and my dear friends look forward to every December.”
This year marks their 15th year and their achievements so far have helped in countless ways and thousands of people, especially the children at Scottish-Rite. This year, they have raised around $1,000,000 for the Scottish Rite Hospital.
The funds raised through Cookies and Castles directly benefit patients with limb differences that are served in the in-house Prosthetics Department at Scottish Rite for Children.
Avid supporter, Genevieve Dittmar said, “It has become a tradition… we even kept it up during Covid! I started going at least 10 years ago when a dear friend served as one of the chairs of the event. Although I was not a Tri Delt, my two girls were, and both were very active in their chapters. I love the way decorating a gingerbread house brings the community together for a great cause. It’s funny, the early years of going we all just put all kinds of candy we all just put all kinds of candy on them… now we plan out designs and each house represents our own personality.”
The first day is a Ladies Luncheon, started in 2013. Around 250 women, come on Friday morning for lunch and also gingerbread decorating. Saturday is more of family celebration where they usually get around 1,300 people and that number goes up every year. They have two seating on that day, one from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and then the next one is 2 p.m.- 4p.m.
During the Saturday event, there are multiple attractions like a Santa, snacks, and a raffle. The raffle contains bigger prizes provided by Cookies and Castles main sponsor, DFW Acura Dealers, but also smaller prizes like home décor and spa packages
The raffle is a great way to donate to this amazing cause, but the tickets are just as important. There are tickets that are called Sponsorship Opportunities and they are extremely important when it comes to raising money. Depending on what is bought, whether that be the Lollipop Sponsor or the Elf Sponsor, it gives people the opportunity to give back.
These sponsorships are not the only way to give back. The Tri Delta Foundation has hundreds of volunteers come to this event. Though only a few members plan the event, more than 200 Tri Deltas in Dallas help and there are 400 women in the Dallas chapter. With almost half of the chapter’s volunteers working, people of all ages are helping out. There are more than 15 colleges represented at this event.
Kate Walsh, a sophomore at Ursuline, said, “I volunteered in 2020 and 2021 as well. It was a little different because of Covid so we helped load gingerbread houses into people’s cars. It was so much fun and very rewarding to help out those in need!”
With the number of volunteers rising, so is the number of people attending. The number of gingerbread houses that they are having to order is rising rapidly. In 2018, 1,300 to 1,400 were being ordered, but now nearly 3,000 are needed in the span of four years.
With the spike in gingerbread houses, it means that they have to have more candy to go with them. They have 5,000 lbs. of candy at this event and is referred to as the candy bar. They have every candy imaginable like Lego bricks, gumdrops, and sour candies in every color.
Zoe Culak, a junior at Ursuline said, “We used to do Cookies and Castles every year. They had every type of candy, and I loved decorating my gingerbread house with my mom. We made our house as intricate as we could. I always went with my friends and their moms, and I love looking back on our old pictures of us with Santa every year.”
The candy doesn’t just have to go on gingerbread houses, they also have the option to decorate huge gingerbread men. These are just as fun, but the houses are packaged after and sent home to be enjoyed during the holidays.
If someone wants to participate, but isn’t available, they can just start at home! Cookies and Castles still does to-go orders, following Covid. This means that as long as you can pick it up, it will be like you are still there. It includes icing, the gingerbread house, and although it is only a fraction of the amazing candy available, it is perfect for the house.
This isn’t the only option beside the actual event. In 2019, Cookies and Castles added a special sponsorship opportunity for parties of 20, 40 or 50, private “sweets” are offered to make it a party. An entire floor is reserved, and each room has its personal candy bar and also a candy concierge, who helps to bring supplies into each room.
The Dallas chapter of Tri Delta foundation has done an amazing job with Cookies and Castles and so have other chapters. The Dallas Alumnae Chapter is partnered with Scottish Rite, and most chapters do a similar event where they partner up with different local hospitals to help raise money.
Scottish-Rite is very special to volunteers in this program. In the Dallas Do Good article, when asked what makes Scottish Rite so special, co-chair, LeAnne Langholz said, “The staff! From the moment you walk in the door to the nurses, doctors, the technicians, they just have this love of children, they just have a passion.”