How an autistic teenager is helping people through cakes and kindness during lockdown

Alana Habergham-Rise, 13, has her own radio show, has raised thousands for charity and published a cookery book - and she has autism. Catherine Scott reports

Alana Habergham-Rice at Kiveton Park in South Yorkshire who has produced the cookbook Caring Cakes. Picture: Gary Longbottom

Alana Habergham-Rice was just six years old when she told her mother that she wanted to do something for charity.

“She liked baking and so I suggested she organise a cake stall,” says Rachel Habergham. “She raised £200 for Alzheimer’s, which was close to her heart.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

However,for Alana that wasn’t enough. The next cake stall raised £1,000 for charity.

Alana Habergham-Rice asked poeple from around Sheffield to add some recipes to her book including BBC Breakfast's Dan Walker. All proceeds will go to the Sheffield Hospitals Charity

But still this caring youngster from Kiveton Park, Rotherham, wanted to do more to bring a smile to people’s faces.

She set up Alana’s Caring Cakes – all to cheer people up and raise money for charity.

“She asked people to nominate those they think deserve one of her bakes, all of whom are facing challenges in their life,” explains Rachel.

“She has received some really tragic stories but she deals with it so well. And just says ‘well if we can make them smile for a moment then we should.’”
Alana bakes the cakes – with all ingredients paid for her mother and father and then her mother helps her to deliver them.

Alana received a Diana Award last year for her kidness to others which included getting a 'Friendly Bench' installed at Kiveton Park Picture Gary Longbotton

“It is always a surprise to them – which does take some organising to make sure they are in, but the look on their faces is worth it.”

Alana was diagnosed with autism when she was 11 and baking helps her anxiety. She talks openly about her condition and works to raise awareness of autism and mental health issues among young people.

Due to the pandemic and the first lockdown, Alana decided to suspend Caring Cakes in March and set about writing a cookery book– Cakes To Make You Smile, from the Heart of Sheffield.

“She really enjoyed putting the book together and it doesn’t just include her recipes but recipes from other people such as BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and also people’s heartfelt stories and amazing illustrations of places around Sheffield – it is much more than just a cookery book.”

Proceeds from the book, which has already sold 300 copies, go to the Sheffield Hospitals Charity to thank local hospitals for the care that they showed her close friend, Nick Challenger, in his recent battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

After being treated at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital 
Nick was eventually given the 
all-clear. Nick and his family 
and friends decided that they wanted to pay back his treatment and Alana decided that she wanted to do her bit. His total now stands at more than £16,000.

“I can’t believe that my baking recipes have actually turned into a book and that people can buy it, read it and bake with it,” says Alana. “I am so proud that every copy that I sell will make a difference to such an amazing cause like Sheffield Hospitals Charity.

“I’ve been baking for years and it is such a great hobby. What makes it even better is that I do it to cheer people up. It isn’t about the money, it is about making people smile because that is the most important thing in the world. If my caring cakes can help with that, then that’s the only reason I need to keep on baking.

“The most important thing to me is always kindness. The world is a much better place when people are kind and that is what my baking and all of the other things I try to do are all about.

“I’ve always wanted to raise money for Sheffield Hospitals Charity. The hospitals showed Nick such amazing care in his battle with cancer and so I want to do this for him. He always believes in me and let me have my first baking stall outside his shop.

“I hope that as many people as possible buy my book, support the charity and enjoy baking cakes that make you smile.”

Another example of Alana’s incredible initiatives is the Friendly Bench installed close to her Kiveton Park home last year, and the first such bench in Yorkshire.

“Alana read about the Friendly Bench initiative on social media and it ticked a lot of her boxes and she was determined to get one for Kiveton Park,” says proud mother Rachel. “If Alana puts her mind to something she normally achieves it.”

The Friendly Bench is an innovative community garden to help tackle loneliness and social isolation. Working with her local councillor, Dominic Beck, Alana was proud to see the installation of the bench outside Kiveton library in Kiveton Park.

The bench is designed to connect people through community events and activities, connect places through information sharing and to help people to connect with nature and the outdoors. Above all, 
it is about giving people a communal space to meet, to talk and to help one another. It is another shining example of Alana’s unrivalled dedication to kindness.

Last year Alana was a recipient of a Diana Award which honours young people who work to improve the lives of others.

Gareth Aston, Chief Executive Officer at Sheffield Hospitals Charity, was delighted to have Alana’s support. “Alana is such an incredible young girl – a real inspiration for all of us. The love and compassion she has for everybody is just remarkable and her motivation to make people happy is something that we should all channel. Time after time she has started projects and initiatives that promote kindness and we are proud to have Alana’s support.

“We are thrilled at Sheffield Hospitals Charity to have Alana’s support and we are so grateful for all that she is doing for us. The book has already proved a big hit as a Christmas gift. What better present than a copy of this amazing book? Get a copy for yourself or for someone else, get baking one of her delicious cakes and put a smile on so many faces.”

Copies of Alana’s cookery book ‘Cakes To Make You Smile, from the Heart of Sheffield’ can be purchased through the Sheffield Hospitals Charity shop at a cost of £6.50 – £4.50 of that goes to the hospitals charity.

There is even a click and collect from Alana’s very 
own ‘friendly bench’ in Kiveton Park.

You can also order books from Alana’s Facebook page, Alana’s Caring Cakes and they can be posted to you at home to help with some lockdown baking. Alana also has her own weekly radio show, which runs at 3pm every Sunday on Redroad FM featuring her favourite music and positive news stories.