Mission: Birthday cake

Published 11:00 pm Friday, August 31, 2012

First Lt. Christopher Foster was presented a birthday cake that took multi-country planning. Pictured: Foster shakes the hand of the Kandahar Sodexo Manager Andrew Nicholenas who helped organize the surprise.

Troy grad receives surprise after cross-continent planning

First Lt. Christopher Foster was excited he was going to make it home for his birthday. But then, he received news that his R and R had been pushed back.

“He was disappointed,” said Foster’s mother, Kate Rowinsky who works as a secretary at Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism. “So, I did what mothers do.”

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Rowinsky began searching the Internet for a company who would deliver a birthday cake to Foster, 32, who had been in Afghanistan since January. She was unable to find a company who could ship a cake to a U.S. Army base address.

But then, Rowinsky remembered a prior talk with her son about the coincidence Sodexo provided food services at the base in Kandahar.

“I thought maybe they could help,” Rowinsky said.

“I did some research and figured I’d give it a shot,” said Brenda Summers, Sodexo’s catering director at the university. “I emailed my national consultant and in about 30 minutes she had the ball rolling.”

Before the email chain was complete, company representatives in the United States, London, France and Asia had become a part of the mission to provide a birthday cake to a Troy graduate and U.S. soldier of 12 years.

“It took three or four days, but it worked!” Summers said. “They were as excited to do it as we were to ask about it.”

On Aug. 21, someone in Foster’s brigade told him he was needed for a pre-meeting issue in the conference room. When he walked in, most of the brigade staff was there, along with Sodexo representatives with a huge cake.

Rowinsky had requested something chocolate and simple and was surprised to see the lengths strangers had gone to help her son celebrate his birthday.

The cake was white with chunks of pineapple, frosted with chocolate and garnished with fruit. It was gone within 10 minutes, Foster told his mother.

“I was so touched by the Sodexo people,” Rowinsky said.

“They went to so much effort. They’d never been asked to do that before and they were very kind.”

Foster was touched, as well.

He wrote in a statement, “It was a special feeling to know that my mom can still surprise me even at 32, that Sodexo would put forth the effort to make and deliver a special cake, and that my colleagues think enough of me to reorganize their priorities for my birthday.

“It reminded me that sometimes when you get used to keeping your head down, every once in a while someone needs to step in and pick it up. I am thankful and fortunate.”