SANTA ROSA — A teen in Santa Rosa has been holding holiday fundraisers for 10 years and has now set an ambitious goal that defies people's expectations of him.
He decided to raise $10,000 over two weekends selling cookies from his front yard. It may sound like a half-baked idea, but actually, it's baked to perfection.
First, the cookies. The sugar and spice molasses cookies come from self-described "competitive baker" Amy Meiers, who won a contest sponsored by the local newspaper with them.
"They are, like, the epitome of Christmas. Christmas in a cookie," she said.
This brings us to her son, 16-year-old Cannon Meiers, who is also the epitome of Christmas. For the last ten years, he's been using the cookies and hot cider to attract people to a fundraiser for his annual Secret Santa effort for the needy. When he reads the simple wishes of people who are less fortunate, it brings out the St. Nick in him.
"I can't get them one. I must get, like, two," he said, about his gift shopping. "I go big or go home."
So, this year, his 10th year, Cannon set the goal of raising $10,000, even though last year he only raised a little over $4,000. Even his father, Aivars, had his doubts.
"Knowing where we were at last year, I was like, whoa, that's a big ask, bud. Are you sure that's the number you want to do," he recalled.
But people have been underestimating Cannon his whole life. He was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder, causing some cognitive problems and making some people doubt his potential.
But at his fundraiser, with lines forming to donate to his cause, you realize he is capable of anything, including inspiring others.
"It makes you feel like you want to help other people before yourself, and put them before you," said his 9-year-old cousin Kennedy Kashack, who helps with some of the baking.
"Look how many people showed up and are just happy and smiling," said donor Beth Benson. "And that's what it should be about."
"When I'm not out here cooking, I'm in there cooking," said Cannon, as he manned the cash box.
But are the cookies really that good?
"Yes, they're worth $10,000," he exclaimed.
The whole thing has made Cannon a bit of a local celebrity, as whole families arrive to donate and snap a selfie with him. But he handles the burden of fame well, even as he makes everyone around him re-evaluate what more they could be doing.
"I think, for sure, there's a lesson in that for everybody," said his father. "You don't ever settle. You can do a lot more, probably, than you think you can do."
Cannon said he's already 3/4 of the way to his goal. But if he gets more than $10,000, that's great.
The fundraiser in Santa Rosa continues next weekend at 1140 Spencer Street in Santa Rosa on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 16 to 17 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Or supporters can donate online at givebutter.com/CannonSecretSanta.
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