When you’re a kid in the hospital or a kid in a homeless shelter, you might not have a birthday celebration. And if you do, you might not get a present. If you’re a college student in foster care, there might be no one to send you a care package. That’s where these nonprofits step in.
When Stephanie Frazier Grimm would visit her godson in the hospital, she’d notice that the hospital gave kids a present on their birthdays but that there weren’t parties. Recalling her own thirteenth birthday spent in the hospital, she decided to change how hospitalized children celebrate and founded the Confetti Foundation. The foundation delivers a birthday box with handmade birthday cards, party supplies, a toy, a book, crayons, colored pencils and other supplies for kids who are in the hospital or hospice. Families can request one of more than a hundred birthday boxes with themes ranging from Fortnite to unicorns. And when there’s a special request, like one family’s request for a “camouflage” birthday, the foundation finds a way to pull it off. The birthday boxes even include a roll of tape so that families, who often don’t leave their sick child’s side, can hang up the streamers, banner and decorations. The organization needs volunteers to make birthday cards and birthday banners, and you can also donate $25, which covers the cost of a birthday box and shipping to a hospital.
Robin Zelaya wanted to do more than just write checks to charities without knowing what happened to the money, so she started asking around about nonprofits she should check out. That’s when she discovered that a colleague ran a food shelf out of his house. On a child’s birthday, parents could get a cake mix or, if there was no cake mix, a box of the child’s favorite cereal. Inspired to help, Robin started putting together birthday bags that same week. She took the bags to homeless shelters and food shelves with the requirement that they be given to parents so that they had gifts to give their kids.
In the twenty-six years since Robin founded Cheerful Givers, more than a million birthday bags have been distributed in Minnesota. You can donate $10 to pay for a birthday toy that goes in the bag or follow the directions on the website to create your own bag. You’ll need to contact your local shelter or food shelf to ensure that it’s interested and to coordinate delivery.
Paige Chenault, a former event planner, was pregnant and thinking about the birthday parties she’d throw for her future child when she opened a copy of Time magazine and saw a photograph of a child living in poverty. What about him? she thought. What about kids who won’t have birthday parties? So she started throwing a monthly birthday party for kids at a homeless shelter in Dallas and called it the Birthday Party Project. During the first party, an eleven-year-old approached her and said, “Thank you, Ms. Paige. This is the first birthday party I’ve ever had.” Today, the nonprofit brings birthday parties to shelters in eighteen cities every month. If you live in one of those cities, you can volunteer. Anyone can donate toward the parties, and you can also donate $50 to cover the cost to create and ship a birthday in a box to social workers who are working with kids in homeless shelters or child protective services.
In addition to mentoring, college scholarships and other services, FC2S provides care packages that include cards, cookies, booklets about succeeding in college and gift cards three times a year for foster youths in college. Its Valentine’s care package includes a red scarf that volunteers knit or crochet. “It’s so critical for the students to know someone cares,” Executive Director Eileen McCaffrey says. “We get calls and emails from students all the time about how much the care packages mean to them.” A donation of $100 covers the cost of three care packages.