Many kids in homeless shelters never seen a birthday party or present in their lives, but Paige Chenault is on a mission to change that.
She founded The Birthday Party Project in 2012 and has been bringing joy to kids across the nation one birthday celebration at a time.
They’ve officially celebrated over 1,350 birthdays with 11,500 kids. According to their site, they’ve also sang “Happy Birthday” over 900 times, painted hundreds of faces and seen countless smiles.
“My wish is that everyone would have a great day like I’m having today,” one of the birthday boys told TODAY.com.
The idea for Paige came up years ago as she was reading an article on birthday parties. She was an event planner, so she started to get pumped about throwing parties for her own little one. It wasn’t long before she also came across a picture of a little Haitian boy who was seriously malnourished.
In a flash those two moments hit her hard, and she knew what she had to do.
“It just sort of hit me. This kid will never feel celebrated like I could celebrate my daughter,” she said. “I could do a lot of things for my kid, but I want to do it in a greater way with a bigger purpose.”
And the Birthday Party Project was born. It’s goal was to celebrate every homeless child’s birthday in the state of Texas. But four years later, their mission has spread to Kansas City, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.
Every month, their volunteers head to various homeless centers around the country to throw parties for the kids’ birthdays that fall in that month.
“A lot of these children don’t know how to blow out a candle or even make a wish,” said Chenault.
The organization aims to throw 180 parties in 2015.
Every party comes complete with games, decorations, music, entertainment, and obviously birthday cake. Each birthday boy/girl gets a personal party hat, individual cake, badge, and a present with a $30 value.
For many of them, it’s the first present they’ve ever gotten.
“It’s a mind-blowing experience,” said one woman attending a party for her son at a shelter in Arlington, Texas. “Coming from such pain and trauma, it’s so nice to be able to relax for a minute, take a breather and to see that smile back on my child’s face. I have no words to describe the happiness and joy that I am feeling.”
For Paige, that type of reaction is exactly the fuel that keeps her Birthday Party Project alive.
“My goal is that each child feels something that lets them know how important they are, how much they matter,” she said. “They deserve to be celebrated, that in this moment of chaos in their life, this moment of confusion, that there is light and that there are people out there cheering for them.”