1,823 – that’s the number of children in foster care whose birthdays have been made special already in 2020 by the Birthday Dreams program at Arizona Helping Hands. More than 250 boys and girls each month have received gifts and party packages, thanks to our efforts.
The pandemic has affected every aspect of daily life. School is going virtual, social gatherings are eliminated and pizza party celebrations are out. Birthday celebrations are different this year. Every child has faced adjustments and new challenges, but consider the life of a child in foster care. On top of the everyday life difficulties caused by the pandemic, 14,000 children in Arizona are dealing with disruption, relocation and confusion from being placed in foster care. These are the kids we celebrate with our Birthday Dreams program. We make a special effort to let them know that they are important, their birthday is worthy of a celebration and that we love each and every one of them.
Grandma put in a request for Jayden, one of three grandchildren she is raising. She told us he would like a science kit, and also enjoys board games and football. Our volunteers shop through our warehouse bins to find the perfect gift to celebrate Jayden’s ninth birthday. Unfortunately, in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, our bins are pretty empty, and it is challenging to find gifts to fill these requests.
With so many employees working from home these days, and with the economic challenges faced throughout society, it will be very difficult to continue to make birthdays special at the rate we receive requests. I think of how sad it would be to not find the football for Jayden, or the craft set for Alicia. It’s such a simple way to let children who have been abused and neglected know that we care about them, and we want to continue to find a way to spread the message that they deserve a happy birthday.
The frosting on the cake for our birthday program is a party package we call “Birthdays in a Bag.” Included in this set is a cake mix, frosting, party favors and candles that we provide along with the gift package, enabling the family to have a home-made party and sing Happy Birthday to a child who may never have celebrated a birthday. Indeed, we have met youngsters who, even at age 8, did not know the words to the Happy Birthday song. Our supplies of Birthdays in a Bag also are depleted from the lack of support during the days of the virus. This is such a simple way for a family to spread love to children in foster care. You can go shopping at the dollar store, fill a few bags and drop them off at our warehouse.