For most kids, the best thing about having a birthday is the party. Unfortunately, thousands of children both in the U.S.A and worldwide who live in homeless shelters or transitional facilities never get to experience the joy of celebrating the day they were born. But that is changing gradually at least in the U.S.A, thanks to Paige Chenault and her Birthday Party Project (BPP).
The former wedding planner came up with the idea in 2009 when she was expecting her first child. Chenault was conjuring up all kinds of themed celebrations she would plan for her yet-to-be-born daughter when she came across a photo of a malnourished young homeless boy in Haiti.
This got her thinking about the scores of homeless children whose parents cannot afford the luxury of celebrating birthdays. The Dallas resident took it upon herself to bring this fun experience into the lives of as many kids as possible and two years later, The Birthday Party Project was born.
The social entrepreneur had initially just planned to reach out to the homeless children in Texas and host parties once a month. However, the smiles garnered by BPP were too bright to be contained in one state. There was so much demand that the non-profit soon began opening chapters all over the country, with volunteers organizing monthly and even weekly parties at nearby homeless or transitional centers.
Over the past three years, Chenault and her team of “birthday enthusiasts” have hosted over 1,350 parties for 12,000 kids between the ages of one to eighteen. And things are only accelerating. This year, BPP has planned over 180 parties across the country, from San Francisco to Minneapolis to New York.
To keep it manageable, each party includes all kids whose birthdays fall in that month. However, though the celebrations may be joint, each birthday child is made to feel special with a personalized cake, badge, and a carefully selected gift. Chenault says many of the kids have never celebrated birthdays before, and some do not even know how to react to the lit candles on the cake.
Of course, an endeavor like this is not cheap. Each party costs between $400-$1,000 USD depending on the number of children with birthdays that month. Fortunately, finding funding and volunteers to help out with this heartwarming idea has not been an issue for BPP.
Chenault says her goal is to make every child realize that they are important and deserve to be celebrated. Judging from the big smiles she manages to generate from each birthday boy/girl, it is safe to say that she is succeeding!