MIAMI COUNTY — A cupcake, a candle and the “Happy Birthday” song is all one needs to celebrate their special day, and one Troy woman is making sure each child has that special moment — one birthday party at a time.
Shelly Calvert began the “We Love Birthday Parties” outreach ministry two years ago to help at-risk children celebrate their special day.
“I looked around at my own kids and the parties we were throwing for them and how much they looked forward to their birthdays. It was just on my heart that there are kids who never get any of this,” she said.
Calvert eventually reached out to local non-profit organizations that serve youth to throw monthly birthday parties for children with limited opportunities.
“We say joy changes lives and it really does. Just the simple act of a birthday party for a kid who normally doesn’t get celebrated is incredible,” Calvert shared.
Calvert shared the story of one child who treasured her very own birthday cupcake so much that she carefully carried it home to show her grandmother.
“She had a cupcake with a candle in it and she never had that before and she needed to share that — just a simple cupcake made that little girl’s birthday so special,” Calvert shared.
Calvert and her team of volunteers bring the birthday party to the organizations such as The Clubhouse, Reading for Change and Lincoln Community Center once a month. Calvert is actively seeking more organizations around Miami County to help celebrate the birthdays of at-risk youth.
They decorate, play games and set up a special “birthday table” to celebrate that month’s birthday kids.
Each child gets a cupcake, gift bag, all the party decorations and one age-appropriate gift valued at $15-25.
“It’s so simple, but you can just see it in their eyes and you can just feel it,” Calvert said. “One little boy looked up at my mother (a volunteer) and said, ‘Thank you so much. This is my first-ever birthday party.’ He’s never had a birthday party and he was 9. He had everybody sing to him. Their eyes light up and you can just feel what it’s doing inside of them. It’s just incredible.”
The impact of their own special celebration is not lost on the children.
“We once had this little girl who was jumping up and down saying, ‘This is the best day of my life!’ Then she had all the other kids join her singing, ‘This is the best day! This is the best day!’” Calvert shared.
Other outreach opportunities include “Birthday Boxes” for children to take their celebrations home. Calvert is working with the Miami County CASA/GAL organization to ensure children in the legal system are celebrated with a “Birthday Box” which includes decorations, cupcakes, gifts and more that can be enjoyed at their foster parent or relative’s home.
We Love Birthday Parties will accept brand-new or never-used donations the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon at the organization’s downtown office located at 131 E. Main St., next to K’s.
Donations may include new toys for ages 5 to 15 years old, gift bag items such as candy, toiletries, school supplies, and party favors. Gift bags, tissue paper and wrapping supplies are also needed. Gatorade, candy and snacks are favorites for older children to receive for their birthdays. Each child also receives necessities such as toothbrushes, toiletries, fleece blankets and other items in their gift bags. LEGO and Play-Doh gifts go very quickly, Calvert said.
Videos of the birthday parties and children are online on the We Love Birthday Parties Facebook page. Information and updates are also on the organization’s Facebook page. A website is in the works, Calvert said.
A long-term goal of Calvert’s is to expand the “We love” theme to include graduation parties, baby showers and beyond.
For the time being, Calvert is celebrating children who may not have the chance to have their special birthday acknowledged.
Donations of party supplies like cups, napkins, decoration candles and balloons are welcome. Cash donations for items such as fresh fruit and cake supplies can be made online at www.gofundme.com/welovebirthdays. We Love Birthday Parties is an outreach ministry through the Centerpoint Church. For more information, contact Calvert at [email protected] or call (937) 524-3097.
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews