Family Volunteers Can Help Children in Transition Celebrate Their Birthdays!

Volunteer Opportunity with Birthday Wishes
Because Every Kid Has a Birthday!

Volunteering together with your children teaches positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, while opening up channels of communication. Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters are able to celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways that families can help to support the organization’s efforts…

The celebration of birthdays is an important childhood activity. Birthday parties honor a child, and acknowledge the growth that has taken place during the past year. Children, to whom the length of a year feels much longer than it does to an adult, look forward to their birthdays with excitement and can hardly wait to have a new number to represent themselves. Even older children who have lost some of the excitement of early childhood look forward to birthdays – a birthday means a special day when you’re the center of everyone’s positive attention.

Imagine, though, that you’re a small child and your birthday passes without celebration or perhaps even without mention. Imagine that after spending the whole year sharing cupcakes at school for friends’ special day or getting invitations to the parties of others, your own much anticipated day brings nothing special. Children whose families are experiencing homelessness often have this experience. Families whose lives lack stability and financial resources are forced to make sacrifices, and non-essentials like birthday parties are no longer a priority when these families reside in a shelter. 

Even though adults (and even some children) often celebrate birthdays without fanfare, we all know that celebrations are most necessary and appreciated when we experience hard times in life. Even though a child might still know that they are loved and appreciated on their birthday, the happiness and excitement that they experience when they get to have a party can help to alleviate some of the discomfort that their family situation might be causing.

Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters are able to celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways that families can help to support the organization’s efforts! Birthday Wishes’ mission is made clear through their name: they make homeless children’s birthday wishes come true. This is done in a few different ways, depending on a family’s individual living situation. Birthday Wishes organizes and holds parties for children – either individually or in groups – at homeless shelters in numerous communities. However, some children reside in safe shelters where non-residents aren’t able to visit. For these children, Birthday Wishes provides a Birthday Box packed with everything a family needs to have a small gathering to celebrate – cake mix and frosting (as well as a baking dish), party hats, favors, decorations, and – of course – presents!

Families who want to support the efforts of Birthday Wishes have a wide range of ways to participate. Each birthday party hosted by the organization requires volunteers who are responsible for setting up, running, and cleaning up the event. Adults and kids are welcome to volunteer, but kids must be at least in 5th grade to help out. If your kids aren’t old enough to help out at a party, put together a Birthday Box together or gather items to donate to an upcoming party in your area . Additionally, Birthday Wishes needs volunteers to stuff goody bags for parties and to deliver Birthday Boxes to shelters. Scout troops, sports teams, classes at school, homeschool groups, neighbors, and other groups can host a bag-stuffing party to prepare favors, or can hold a drive to gather the materials needed to create Birthday Boxes. Additionally, donations of money are always welcome and help the organization carry out its mission.

If your family decides to support Birthday Wishes, help your children appreciate the meaningfulness of your efforts by having a discussion about why they enjoy and appreciate their birthday. Discussing the things that they enjoy about celebrating a birthday will help them to understand what they’re doing – they’ll know that they’re helping to make sure that other kids get to experience the same things. You might even be able to create a family tradition of putting together a birthday box or helping out at a party for each of your own family members’ birthdays! Instead of celebrating with your own party at home, share some of the excitement with others!

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer said,

    January 21, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you very much Hilltown Families for this wonderful and detailed article about Birthday Wishes! We so appreciate your support. -Jen Matoney, Western Mass Regional Coordinator for Birthday Wishes, jennifer@birthdaywishes.org


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