Doesn’t every child deserve to be celebrated on their birthday?
That’s the question on the front of the brochure for Birthday Wishes, a Newton Centre-based group that provides birthday parties for homeless children in six states. Volunteers bring birthday joy to children in 175 shelters, including HAC’s three family shelters. The children play games and do crafts projects (making paper hula skirts, building teddy bears from a kit, decorating Christmas cookies). The birthday child opens gifts donated by the group.
Birthday Wishes volunteers have been organizing parties at HAC shelters for about five years. The parties help bring normalcy and hope to the shelters. Last month Dawn Boulay, the Birthday Wishes volunteer coordinator for Angel House, and volunteer Nicole Myberg coordinated a party for Serenity, who was turning 1.
“She was very excited when everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday,’” said Shana, Serenity’s mom. “She liked all the attention.”
Myberg, who learned about Birthday Wishes through an article in Boston Parenting magazine, said, “It’s fun interacting with the kids. It’s nice to be able to help out.”
Maura Dankert of Bourne is the Birthday Wishes party coordinator at the Village at Cataumet, a HAC shelter for families. She recently organized an Easter egg hunt for a dozen children there.
A mother of four, Dankert got involved with Birthday Wishes through a friend who is the party coordinator at a shelter in Kingston. “I brought my daughter to help at one of their events and I was hooked,” she said. “I grew to love the families, so it’s bittersweet when they leave the shelter. I’m happy for them, but I miss them.”
Laura Kiernan, a case manager at Cataumet, said, “The children get excited when they know the Birthday Wishes volunteers are coming. All day they’re asking, ‘When does it start?’ It makes a big difference in their lives.”
Rob is a Cataumet client who was at the Easter party with his sons, one 3 years old and the other 5 months old. “I think it’s a great thing that they do this for the kids. With the situation everyone’s in, it makes us feel normal.”
To learn more about Birthday Wishes, visit www.birthdaywishes.org.