Birthdays Are Different During Shelter-In-Place!

Arizona Helping Hands founder Kathy Donaldson’s March birthday did not include a meal with friends, a movie, or even having her desk at the office decorated with party favors. She had a quiet day tucked up safely in her house, receiving calls and messages, instead of in-person interactions. Such is the muted celebration for everyone during the COVID-19 crisis. Birthdays are different.

For many children in foster care, birthday celebrations are not ever expected. I’ve met many teens who have never celebrated their special day. For teens in group homes, the March party might be held on the 15th, and no mention is made when Alicia’s birthday comes on the 25th. Many among us whose birthday falls during March and April this year will be able to relate to Alicia.

Our work at Arizona Helping Hands is to provide essential needs to the 14,000+ children in our State’s foster care system. We provide beds and cribs to give children a Safe Place to Sleep. We help foster families become licensed for fostering by supplying home safety items including fire extinguishers, first aid kits and more. We provide back to school supplies, personal care items, diapers, clothing and other basic needs to help children who have experienced abuse and neglect in their short lives.

We also go well beyond the basics, we seek to bring joy into the lives of boys and girls who have not experienced that emotion enough. We want children to know every day, but especially on their birthday that they are loved, and that we care. Our Birthday Dreams program assembles gift packages for children in foster care. Learning that Samantha likes crafts or Pedro is a Paw Patrol fan, we will assemble a few toys and a book in a personalized gift package for their birthday.

In 2019 alone, Arizona Helping Hands provided 3,596 children with a gift package, and we added in a party pack – cake mix, frosting and candles. All of our efforts were to say that YOU MATTER. Children in foster care should have a celebration. In these days of the Coronavirus, this message takes on an additional meaning. We want these boys and girls to know that outside of the house they can’t leave today is a community that supports them, that wants to say Happy Birthday to you!

For all the Aries out there, I’m saddened that your birthday is different this year. Perhaps you can relate to children in foster care whose life experiences have never included a party. Our program seeks to change that. Even without our army of volunteers to help us fill packages, we are sending our Birthday Dreams to boys and girls every day, especially in these days of the Coronavirus. These kids deserve a celebration, NOW more than EVER.

Arizona Helping Hands is open! We are shipping out beds, cribs and birthday dreams to make a difference for children in foster care.
We need community support to continue to fill birthday dreams and to provide essential needs to thousands of children in foster care each year. As a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization (QFCO #10003) Arizona taxpayers can donate $1,000 per year as a married couple to support our work and receive every dollar back on your Arizona tax return. Contributions are due by April 15th to claim as a credit on your 2019 tax return. You can feel great knowing that your tax dollars are going to say Happy Birthday to children who truly deserve a celebration! You can help us make their birthdays different from all the other days. Help us bring joy and hope to children in foster care.

Dan Shufelt is the President & CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the Organization at www.azhelpinghands.org and contact Dan at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org

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