BOSTON (CBS) – Cake, ice cream, candles and presents. Every child deserves a birthday party, but if not for the work of a group called Birthday Wishes, for some kids, the big day would be anything but happy.
With a hearty rendition of “Happy Birthday,” it’s a huge day for Josiah as friends and family gather to celebrate his third birthday. It’s a Cookie Monster party with all the goodies, nothing unusual there. But this is happening at Heading Home’s family shelter in Medford, where JoJo and his mother have lived for two months.
“I really didn’t have anything to do for his birthday. I didn’t have enough money to throw him a party and give him nice gifts,” says Tamara Moise, Josiah’s mother. And that’s where Birthday Wishes comes in.
“Birthday Wishes is a non-profit organization that provides birthday parties for homeless children,” says Lisa Vasiloff, one of the founders of the organization. Without Birthday Wishes, many children simply would not celebrate their birthdays. “For these children, to feel special on one day, to feel important, to laugh and experience joy even if it’s only for a couple of hours, it truly makes a difference,” says Vasiloff.
Birthday Wishes started 10 years ago working with one shelter. Today it serves about 175 shelters and organizations. Volunteers organize all the parties. “I usually don’t make it through the door and the kids are running over to me asking, what are we doing today? So it’s just been really joyful,” says Amy Darling one of the many volunteers. “It shows that there are people that care enough, so that every child can be happy,” says Tamara Moise.
The Medford Shelter is operated by Heading Home, a local group dedicated to ending homelessness. Tom Lorello is the Executive Director. He says Birthday Wishes helps in many ways. “It certainly brings a lot of joy to the kids and to their parents, but I think it’s also important that it brings a sense of normalcy too, because you don’t feel like you’re living a normal life when you’re living in a shelter,” says Lorello.
Each month, Birthday Wishes throws 50 to 60 parties, bringing happiness and hope to children leading unsettled lives. It takes an army of volunteers and a lot of financial support to do that. To learn more, or to get involved go to: www.birthdaywishes.org
Do you know people who are working together to make a difference in their communities? Email Jackie Connally, and maybe we’ll do a story about them: email@example.com