No child should go without a birthday celebration, especially homeless boys and girls living in shelters and transitional homes, or foster children placed in group homes.
A local grassroots organization has stepped up to help, providing children with the opportunity to experience the joy of a birthday party – free of worries and burdens – on their special day.
“This is something that’s very dear to my heart,” said Chris Spahn, one of the main forces behind Birthday Dreams, a Renton-based, non-profit service organization that works to ensure that homeless children throughout the Puget Sound are able to celebrate their birthdays. “We’re always looking for more opportunities to help.
“It is rewarding.”
As Spahn explains, Birthday Dreams was founded on a simple principle: children must have a sense of hope, encouragement and belief that there are people who care, so that they “weather the storms of their circumstances.”
Driven by volunteers and donations, Birthday Dreams is reaching more shelters and transitional housing facilities in the area. The group stays busy, putting on about 12 parties each month, with a potential for growth. A visit may encompass a group party for several birthdays at one time.
Birthday Dreams has helped celebrate 120 birthdays since the organization was founded a year ago. The group serves children at several locations, reaching spots as far south as Auburn and as far north as Everett, with locations in Seattle and on the Eastside.
“We also do individual homes, even working to target those (families) living out of cars,” said Spahn, the organization’s executive director and co-founder.
“It’s been pretty busy,” she added. “We haven’t reached our capacity yet, but we’re hoping to expand.
“We want kids to have their birthday celebrations.”
The volunteer-operated and assisted on-site birthday parties treat kids to cake, ice cream, games and party favors. Group parties in the past have had clowns, face painters, carnival games and prizes, inflatable toys and other entertainment.
When group parties are not possible, the organization supplies a Birthday-in-a-Box, containing items parents or guardians need to throw a party for their child: gifts, cake, ice cream, juice, plates, cups, napkins, party hats and noise makers.
Parties follow a fun theme, consistent with a child’s interests.
“We try to be anonymous,” Spahn said of facilitating parties for parents and guardians.
Birthday Dreams works with the support of others, Spahn said.
Individuals, businesses and service clubs are among those who have donated to the cause, Spahn said.
More volunteers are needed to reach every homeless child in the Puget Sound area, Spahn said.
“We are always looking for more children to serve by providing them with birthday parties,” she said.
If you would like to donate your time or supplies or would like more information, visit www.birthdaydreams.org. Birthday Dreams also can be found on Facebook and Twitter.