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Fort Osage graduate gives back

By Bill Althaus

Cole James could have been a statistic.

He was diagnosed with autism and doctors gave his mother, Christy Laster, and father, Jason James, the news when their son was 4½ years old.

Fort Osage's Neveah Wilson picks a treat from the selection of homemade cookies and cakes that Fort Osage graduate Cole James brings to every game. The Indians surprised James last season with a Fort Osage themed apron and oven mitt. He makes all the treats himself.

“The doctors told us that it was likely Cole would never really talk or communicate and that he would never graduate from a regular high school.”

Well, those doctors were wrong.

Today, Cole is a graduate of Fort Osage High School, a greeter at Corner Cafe in Independence and one of the most popular Indian softball team fans because he bakes treats for the players, coaches and fans and delivers them after every game.

Fort Osage graduate Cole James and his mother, Christy Laster, make sure the littlest fans of the Fort Osage softball team get some treats. The youngsters are, from left, Everlee Rinacke and her sister Preslee and Sonni Short. James brought homemade treats to the Indian players every game this season

“Cole is so proud of what he does for the girls,” Christy said. “Win or lose, they have smiles on their faces because they know Cole is going to be there with his treats. And he bakes them all himself.”

“And he’s so proud that all of his treats are his own, personal recipes.”

Cole quickly interjects, “There are no boxes in our kitchen. Just my secret ingredients. I don’t tell anyone my ingredients. They are a secret – and they are delicious.”

His father nods in agreement.

“All his recipes are his own, and they come from scratch,” Jason said, “and I’ll agree with him. They are delicious.”

Fort Osage activities director Ryan Schartz agrees with that comment.

“I always put on about 10 pounds during softball season because of all of Cole’s treats that I eat,” Schartz quipped. “They are amazing. Everyone is the best you think you’ve ever eaten, then he tops it with another great treat – cookies, cake balls, cakes - you name it. He’s the man.”

On this day, Cole’s cooler is filled with Oreo truffles.

“Cole is so sweet, and he has a big heart and cares for all of us girls so much,” third baseman Savannah Short said. “He started last year with the occasional little snack, but this year he has outdone himself.”

“He is taking orders from our players, making tons of batches to make sure we all get more than one, and he even sends us photos of what he has made.”

“Seeing Cole come to our game with his big container of goodies absolutely turns our day around. Everyone needs a Cole in their life.” 

Before the game ends, he is greeted by a group of players’ little sisters, and he gladly hands each of them a treat. They giggle and dance and have the treats eaten in seconds.

“It’s not just our players who love my treats – everyone loves them,” Cole said.

Cole is also branching out and offering his treats on his Facebook page Indian Sweets.

“He makes a German chocolate cake that is to die for,” Christy said, “and he can provide what you want, or come up with something really creative.”

When asked about his new day job, his mother breaks into an ear-to-ear grin and talks with a touch of emotion and admiration in her voice.

“We were told he would never communicate, and now, he is a greeter at one of the busiest restaurants in Independence,” she said. “We have talked to the manager, and they love Cole.”

“They have him working on weekends, their busiest times, and he is hoping to one day work in the kitchen.”

But Cole is too busy delivering his Oreo truffles to the Indians to think that far ahead.

“I love these girls, they are my team and I am their No. 1 fan,” Cole said. “Especially my sister Emma. I love her so much and she loves me so much. And all the girls love my treats and they love me and that makes me so happy.”

At last season’s banquet, Savannah and her mother Tina got together with the team and presented Cole a baker’s paradise of a Fort Osage softball apron, oven mit and other kitchen goodies with an Indian theme.

“We wanted to get him something special, and something that would help him in the kitchen,” Tina said. “And we have something special planned for him this year too, but it’s a secret.”

A secret, like all the ingredients Cole uses in his treats.

“I will tell you a secret,” he said, motioning for the listener to move a bit closer. “I will tell you one ingredient in all my treats – love!”