Owner’s Story: Cake Lady’s Outdoor Kitchen
In the second episode of this series, ITV’s Love Your Garden team create an elegant tea garden for Kath Ryan, a retired nurse from Birmingham who volunteers her time to baking cakes for injured servicemen and women.
The centrepiece of the garden is a 12ft x 8ft Studio Apex with a fully equipped kitchen so Kath can teach veterans to bake cakes, host tea parties and hold Mental Health Days.
Cakes 4 Casualties
Over the last 10 years, Kath Ryan has been serving cakes and hugs to tens of thousands of veterans who were severely injured during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict as well as veterans who have recent cancer diagnosis, special operations and accidents at work.
She’s dedicated every day of her retirement to helping them with their recovery and bringing a smile to their face at the hardest time of their lives, recovering from the horrors of conflict and looking ahead to their rehabilitation.
Between 2009 – 2014 alone, Kath is estimated to have supported 9,000 injured service personal – as well as their families. Kath was nominated for the garden makeover by the wife of one of the first soldiers she helped.
Anna Boggi first met Kath in hospital after her husband, a Royal Engineer Veteran and triple amputee, returned to the UK after being injured by IED blast:
“I was sat on the ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Jake had just had more surgery and I was waiting for him to come back to the ward. I was in the day room feeling very emotional. Then in came this bundle of love with a tray of cakes. Before she even gave me a cake, she hugged me so tight I knew everything would be ok”.
How Did It All Begin?
It was whilst visiting her sister in Selly Oak Hospital that she decided to try and cheer her up by baking her some cakes. Kath’s sister shared the cakes with the injured soldiers in the military ward and the cheeky chappies said, “Ask your sister to bring us some cakes on S4!”.
Kath found this amusing and went ahead with their wishes, baking 12 dozen different flavoured cakes and took them to the Hospital. The soldiers at the hospital were very keen to meet this mysterious cake baking lady, so Kath went down to the ward and was overwhelmed by their resilience after what they had experienced.
No Calories, Just Love and Blessings
“I was struck by their courage, their humour, and their cheek. I thought ‘You’ve been shot, you’ve been blown apart, and you can still go wow at a fairy cake”.
Kath quickly became known as ‘The Cake Lady’ baking 500 cakes a week to take into hospital during the height of the Afghan War.
Cakes 4 Casualties is now Kath’s registered charity and relies on the public donations, but she has donated her entire savings from nursing to making sure ‘her boys’ have their cakes ‘full of love and blessings’.
Company on the Road to Recovery
Kath’s support stretches far beyond just giving veterans a slice of cake – it benefits their families who are in hospital as well as the doctors and nurses who are caring for the veterans throughout their rehabilitation.
Other benefits of her service mean extra calories to help with wound healing, mental health recovery and to support their families, particularly the mothers of the Veterans who regularly contact Kath for support.
Kath has also helped Veterans who have reached out to her for support when they have felt suicidal and she has helped them get the help they need – something she is very proud of.
A Kitchen Garden Studio
Kath has always wanted a place for her to be able to teach veterans how to bake as she is inundated with requests from them, but she has no room in her home to do it. Kath is also seriously lacking storage and running out of space in her house so it’s a dream come true to have an outside building that she can use with the Veterans. Kath explains:
“Before when one of my boys dropped in to say “hi” we had to resort to having cups of tea and slices of cake sat in the car parked on the drive. It’s so much more than I would ever have imagined or expected now I have a lovely garden and outdoor room we can sit in whatever the weather. I’m already planning tea parties for Mental Health Days and baking sessions”.
Kath’s garden is now completely transformed from what she admits was an untamed wasted space into a haven where she can relax in her down time or entertain the troops when they come to call!