GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- The big day has finally arrived! We’re revealing the first finalist of our 2021 Remarkable Women of West Michigan contest! In December, we’ve reached out to our West Michigan friends to send in nominations of local everyday women making a positive impact in our community in tremendous ways!

Our team is proud to announce that we’ve received dozens of submissions since then, and we’ve narrowed the search for this year’s West Michigan Women of the Year Award down to four outstanding finalists.

Meet our first finalist, Rebecca Cruttenden!

I hope that you will consider Rebecca as the next Woman of the Year 2021. She is too humble to seek anything like this herself, but very much deserving of it.”

Lori (via nomination form)

Who is Rebecca Cruttenden?

Rebecca is a fierce mom, wife and community leader! Not only is she a nine-time Ironman finisher, but she’s also the founder and owner of Clara Cookies, a pastry business that raises money for adoption grants one cookie sale at a time! When she isn’t baking in the kitchen, working side-by-side with a great group of volunteers down at Camp Roger in Rockford, you can find Rebecca fulfilling her role as the Director of Team Orphans!

Discovering her purpose through her passion

Launching a successful cookie business and curating a strong team of individuals determined to save countless children’s lives doesn’t happen overnight! In fact, in 2013 while training for an Ironman triathlon, Rebecca realized she needed a healthy and more appetizing way to enjoy a protein treat. Once her go-to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches no longer made the cut for her during races, Rebecca decided to create the perfect substitute–peanut butter and chocolate chip protein cookies!

After sharing her sweet creations with family and friends, Rebecca’s husband encouraged her to create a protein cookie business to support Orphans and adoption, two causes near and dear to her heart.

Since the inception of Clara Cookies and Team Orphans, Rebecca and her team have sold over 100,000 cookies, have raised $280,000 dollars for adoption, and have connected nearly 800 kids with special needs with forever homes and families around the world! And the best part of all? 100% of all Team Orphans donations will continue to help provide adoption grants for families bringing special needs children to their new families here in the states.

My heart isn’t to have a cookie company, my heart is to help kids get adopted. 

Rebecca Cruttenden

When asked to reflect on the remarkable impact she’s had in our community, Rebecca simply states,

I think remarkable isn’t necessarily out in front of people. Remarkable a lot of times is in the back where nobody sees and it’s just doing something small to help someone else.”

“It’s just a small thing. It’s one cookie, but a volunteer that makes one cookie or someone who buys one cookie- you’ve made a difference in the world, in a life of a child by one cookie! It matters. Small is good.”

Learn more about Rebecca’s story by watching her segment on eightWest in the video player above and stay tuned for the reveal of our next finalist on Tuesday, March 16!