Joan Cusack: Talking Cookies for Cancer (and Other Mom Stuff)

April Peveteaux

joan cusackAfter offering me a beverage and asking me some get-to-know-you questions (Joan Cusack is like your best girlfriend in real life as well), I sat down with Cusack and discussed GLAD's new role in Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a program started by a mom to fight pediatric cancer.  

As a celebrity spokeswoman, you can't get any more relatable than Cusack (who oftentimes seemed to be interviewing me). She's a passionate and inspired voice for the cause.

So many of my friends exclaimed, "You're so lucky!" when I told them I was interviewing the award-winning actress, and I was lucky to spend a really lovely morning talking with Cusack about mom power, 3D movies, and of course, Sixteen Candles.

How did you get involved with GLAD to Give?

Another mom at my kids' school (my kids are 10 and 13) was a big part of the Comer Cancer Center in Chicago, which is a kids' cancer center. And another mom and I both had dads that died of pancreatic cancer, so that's how I kind of got into the world.

Then last year I got involved with the Cookies for Kids' Cancer and just realized the message. Kind of like how breast cancer used to be; people didn't want to talk about it because it was "breasts" and "cancer." Because people didn't talk about it, there was no funding for it.

Since everything in kids grows quickly, cancer grows really quickly and it's the leading cause of death by disease for kids.

I didn't realize that.

No one does, because nobody wants to talk about it.

But there's great research -- unbelievable research -- but there's no funding. So it's the same thing that breast cancer went through.

This mom whose son has cancer, Gretchen Holt, said, "We need money," and she started having bake sales last year. After six months, they raised $200,000. Just on bake sales! And then a mom from GLAD read about it in a magazine and thought it was a great way to give back as a company.

So GLAD brought it to another level, and now this year we're doing a Recipe for Giving program, which is a family-related project. If your family already does charity work and food-related service, like bake sales or giving the fireman a pie at Thanksgiving, you can send in your recipe and story. It's GLAD's way of rewarding a family that already does this by giving the winning family a trip to St. Lucia.

Right now, every dollar up to $200,000 will go to Cookies for Kids' Cancer when you buy GLAD products. So if you're a mom, all you have to do is buy that one thing and you're helping.

How does the team work? How do I get on Team Joan?

The finalists for Recipe for Giving are assigned to a celebrity. The team that raises the most money in November during our big telethon will win the trip to St. Lucia.

You know, kids are so much more aware because everything's on the news all the time now. They know that there are people that have it tough. They feel good when they're helping. Kids innately want to do the right thing, but they need to be shown how.

Do you have a recipe you're entering in a bake sale?

Fortunately, I just get to do this because I'm not a huge baker. I try to put oatmeal in my chocolate chip cookies so they'll be a little bit healthier. But my kids are usually like, "Let's not do that."

You take the role of frazzled mom to a whole other level. In real life, are you a frazzled mom?

I think parenting is really, really, really hard. But there's nothing more rewarding.

Parenting little kids is really hard and life is really busy. Usually if you're both working, it's an important time in your career and you have young kids, and you have your parents, and you have social stuff, and you have school stuff. It's such a busy, busy time of life. Sometimes you just get a moment in the day that feels good -- even if it's just that someone was nice on the elevator. Otherwise, it's a lot of work.

With the GLAD campaign, it's easy because when you have to buy stuff at the store, you can put that thing in your cart and feel good in that minute. You need those little things that help because it's so hard. It's such a complex time and it's so busy. There's a million grocery stores, and are you doing organic, or this, or that. It's just like ... oh my god.

Did you realize what a huge cultural impact Sixteen Candles would have when you were filming?

Have you read that book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell? It's really interesting. It talks about how you can't just work really hard and make it; you have to work really hard and have serendipity. John Hughes was my serendipity.

If he hadn't been in Chicago and he hadn't been making teen movies when I was a teenager ... I happened to have gone to this theater school because my older sister was doing it and I just tagged along. So I had some training, weirdly.

The only thing I knew was that he really cared. He treated everyone with respect. That felt so supportive. It's such a scary thing to do, be in a movie when you're a teenager. It's like being an astronaut.

Because he was so kind and made me feel important, it was an amazing experience. I don't think I'd have a career if he hadn't been there.

When the movie came out, were you surprised at how big it became?

The fact that it's sort of sustained is amazing. I've talked to people who had that as a teenager growing up and feel like there isn't really that now. There are no good teen movies.

Has your 13-year-old seen it?

I can't remember if he's seen it.

I was wondering if a 13-year-old today would relate to it as well.

I think so. Do you?

Of course, I do, but I'm part of that generation.

I think it's probably still pretty good.

What else is going on this summer?

I did one of those 3D movies -- which was really bizarre -- where you wear a scuba suit. Have you seen those? They're so bizarre. You have these dots and balls all over you and it's all computer-generated and you're in a weird gray box and there are cameras everywhere. You have helmet cameras. It's called Mars Needs Moms.

That and Toy Story 3 are mind-blowing. You just have a voice in a sound booth by yourself. Then you see it on the big screen.


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