By Alex Gladu
When small business owner Paige Chenault started a family with her husband, she felt inspired to do more with her event-planning skills. With that inspiration, she launched The Birthday Party Project, a nonprofit organization that works with local shelters across the country to throw birthday parties for homeless children. It’s a simple concept, but a big project – and there’s no better time to celebrate with The Birthday Party Project than Giving Tuesday.
For many families, the idea of a birthday party seems so normal that it could be taken for granted. Parents may spend weeks arranging the perfect venue, menu and guest list for their kids’ special days. That experience is totally different for kids and parents in the nation’s homeless shelters: Kids often go without birthday parties, and parents dread the day that they can’t provide a good celebration for their son or daughter. That’s where The Birthday Party Project comes in.
In 2012, Chenault launched The Birthday Party Project by hosting one party a month at a homeless shelter with 60 children. Since then, the organization has expanded to six states, celebrating 180 birthday parties in 2015 alone. In total, The Birthday Party Project has celebrated more than 1,300 birthdays with more than 11,500 kids (along with more than 10,000 cupcakes, 1,000 personalized birthday cakes and 900 rounds of “Happy Birthday.”) Chenault now works with shelters in Detroit, San Francisco, New York and beyond – and she’s still growing the Birthday Party Project even further.
Party planning comes naturally to Chenault, who ran her own business, Paige Chenault Events, for more than five years. Giving back to local children clearly comes naturally to her, too.
“A lot of these children don’t know how to blow out a candle or even to make a wish,” she told TODAY.com back in October.
Each party costs between $400 and $1,000, depending on the number of children celebrating in that month. Each party celebrates all the kids in that shelter who have a birthday in the month of the party, and each child receives a party hat, an individual-size cake and a gift worth approximately $30. Chenault funds the parties with the help of donations and volunteers, whom she calls “birthday enthusiasts.”
The Birthday Party Project accepts donations of money, items and time all year long, but today, there’s perhaps more reason to support such a cause. Each year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is known as Giving Tuesday, thanks to a campaign that encourages consumers to take time away from their holiday shopping lists to give back. In 2014, Giving Tuesday generated more than $45 million in donations to nonprofits and groups around the world.
Chenault believes that joy can change the world – and judging by the reaction on the children’s faces when she throws them a birthday party, she’s right. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.thebirthdaypartyproject.org.
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