Thirty minutes before the party, volunteers arrive. They hang a banner and streamers, set up games and activities, and arrange wrapped gifts on a table. Soon it’s time to blast the music and welcome the eager guests. Kids rush in, ready to celebrate. Happy Birthday!
Each month, these parties take place at homeless shelters and transitional living facilities. They’re hosted by the Birthday Party Project. The nonprofit organization throws parties for groups of kids who don’t have a permanent home. For some children, it’s the first birthday party they’ve ever had.
LIFE OF THE PARTY The Birthday Party Project throws themed events where kids get gifts and celebrate in style.
COURTESY THE BIRTHDAY PARTY PROJECT
Paige Chenault is the founder of the Birthday Party Project. “A birthday is a perfect place and a perfect time in our life to stop and celebrate,” she told TIME for Kids. Chenault’s family threw the group’s first event in January 2012. It was at a shelter in Dallas, Texas. Now the Birthday Party Project hosts about 50 monthly parties in 15 cities. More than 10,000 kids have celebrated their birthday at these events.
Dipson, 8, is one of them. He lives in a transitional housing community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At a party there in March 2018, Dipson played ring toss. He also opened his presents: Hot Wheels and a new scooter. “It was very fun,” he says. But Dipson also says he learned a lesson from eating too many cupcakes: “You can get a little bit sick when you have too much chocolate,” he warns future partygoers.
Jamie Gates is a coordinator at the community where Dipson lives. The Birthday Party Project holds parties there on the third Thursday of each month. Gates says that if she doesn’t put up flyers for the next event at least five days in advance, kids will start asking about it. “They love it,” she says. “Parents will come to the party, too. It’s a really good opportunity for them to sit and talk, and for the entire place to come together.”