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Lower Burrell sisters hope to parlay cupcake shop into special-needs tutoring

| Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Courtney Kobelenske, left, her daughter, Cora Lee Kobelenske, 8, a first grader at Bon Air Elementary, in Lower Burrell and the inspiration behind Coralee cupcakes, at Wildlife Lodge Lanes which is the site of the Octbober 12 fundraiser to raise money for tutoring services for kids with special needs, and Kylie Lash on October 2, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Cora Lee Kobelenske, 8, a first grader at Bon Air Elementary, in Lower Burrell and the inspiration behind Coralee cupcakes, sits on a bowling ball and plays with a cupcake box at Wildlife Lodge Lanes which is the site of the Octbober 12 fundraiser to raise money for tutoring services for kids with special needs, on October 2, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Kylie Lash, left, Cora Lee Kobelenske, 8, and Courtney Kobelenske, watch as Cora Lee, a first grader at Bon Air Elementary, smoothly rolls her ball down the lane, Cora Lee is the inspiration behind Coralee cupcakes, fundraising effort to raise money for tutoring services for kids with special needs, on October 12, at Wildlife Lodge Lanes in Lower Burrell, October 2, 2013.

Courtney Kobelenske knocked on her sister Kylie Lash's door in March and asked, “I want to start a cupcake business. You in?”

“Oh yes,” Lash answered enthusiastically, and one week later, a website was launched (www.coraleecupcakes.com), and the sister co-owners began baking from Lash's kitchen, creating a variety of custom-flavor mini-cupcakes.

“Kylie said yes before I could even finish my sales pitch,” Kobelenske says. Their mobile online site delivers cupcakes within a 15-mile radius of Lower Burrell. Their motto: “Mini cupcakes that come to you.”

The sisters live in the same Lower Burrell neighborhood and, inspired by their children, in November plan to open a brick-and-mortar store called Cora Lee Cupcakes in Lower Burrell's Stewart Plaza.

“We definitely want to be open before the holidays,” Lash says.

The top three flavors of the more than 15 flavors of cupcakes they plan to sell are “mint chocolate chip, s'mores and peanut-butter-and-jelly,” Lash says.

This sister act has the best panel of taste-testers: their four children. “Cora Lee loves the chocolate cupcakes,” says Mom Kobelenske, who also has a daughter Emma, 11. Lash has a son, Parker, 5, and daughter, Caroline, 1. The shop will feature only mini-cupcakes and will offer cupcake “cakes.”

The mini-cupcakes are handmade by Kobelenske and Lash, who earned an associate's degree in culinary arts from The International Culinary Academy.

“Cora Lee is my daughter who is 8 and is a first-grader at Bon Air Elementary in Lower Burrell,” Kobelenske says. “She inspired the business name; she is on the autism spectrum and has a learning disability.”

The sisters hope the store will be a welcoming place for children who need tutoring help for studies. “We have wanted to offer something for the kids in our community for some time now, and our cupcake shop will do that,” Kobelenske says.

“Being the mom of a daughter with special needs, I always wonder, will Cora be accepted or understood since she has a speech delay and other quirks as we like to call them,” Kobelenske says. “I want a place where kids can go and know that even though we may look different on the outside, we are all the same on the inside.”

To make their shop ready for tutoring services, the sisters are working with several Burrell students and Bon Air teachers, and they are in the talking stage with an area college sorority. “We have some great high-school students and teachers that already plan to help out,” Kobelenske says.

To help pay for educational supplies, there will fundraiser at Wildlife Lanes Bowling Center in Lower Burrell. For $14, guests can get three hours of bowling and shoe rental. A Chinese auction and 50/50 will be offered.

“We will use the profits to buy supplies to outfit the tutoring portion of the store, and we will donate to Bon Air's special-education department, too, since Cora is a part of that,” Kobelenske says. “The cupcakes can be profitable for us, but the tutoring, that is nonprofit, and fundraising is needed to make that happen. We will utilize volunteers as tutors, whether they are retired teachers or anyone with the skill set to help the kids.”

“We are not specially trained to tutor special-needs kids,” Lash says, “but we do have the patience, and our clearances.”

“We have been blessed with Cora Lee for a reason; she changes the lives of all that meet her, “ Kobelenske says. “I'm so proud to be her mother.”

Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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