Little kids dream of birthdays. Birthday cake. Birthday balloons. Birthday presents. Age is measured in six-month (or less) increments, such as "I'm 6 and three-quarters."
It's the one special day devoted to the birthday boy or girl, and always includes a party with friends playing games and singing, "Happy Birthday to you!"
Homeless children and foster kids' birthdays are often skipped, overlooked, or just not affordable for their families or caregivers.
Step in, Birthday Dreams.
The local non-profit agency has provided birthday parties to homeless children in the Puget Sound area for a little over two years now.
Chris Spahn, and her partner Shannon Avery, founded the organization based upon the belief that every child should have a special day, where they are given a sense of hope and purpose that someone cares about them.
"Our hope is that the child has one day to be free of all their worries and burdens and just enjoy the excitement of their birthday party," said Spahn.
Spahn got the idea two years ago when she attended a party organized by Coast Guard Wives. There were some 400 volunteers working on preparing stockings for Christmas. The room was filled will joyful anticipation of providing for less fortunate children during the holidays.
"I thought, why don't we feel this way all year long?" Spahn said. Not long after the holiday experience Spahn gave a birthday party for her daughter. She realized how blessed her family was, and began thinking that they could do this for other children.
Birthday Dreams started small.
At first they provided games for birthday parties for agencies that served the homeless. Their first full-blown party took place at
Birthday Dreams can provide two types of parties—on-site, or what they call Birthday-in-a-Box.
The organization currently provides two on-site birthday parties per month, which will grow to four a month in the near future. After a parent, or significant adult fills out a questionnaire, the party is designed with the child in mind.
The events can—and usually are—centered around a theme. Kids get their favorite flavor of birthday cake and ice cream, decorations, party supplies and games, and even party favors for the kids in attendance.
Some parties have been outdoors, with clowns and entertainment.
When on-site birthday parties are not possible, Birthday Dreams provides a Birthday-in-a-Box. Again, centered around the child's interest, it contains everything the parent or guardian needs to throw the celebration, including cake-and-ice cream, gifts, candles, party hats, plates and napkins, balloons, and games. Each birthday box costs an average of $80 to assemble.
Teylar Greer, is the children's program coordinator at Union Gospel Mission and sees the parties in action each month.
"The kids really look forward with excitement to the parties," Greer said. "All of the children having a birthday in a particular month celebrate their special day when Birthday Dreams comes to the mission. One little girl recently was especially excited that Birthday Dreams was coming on her actual birthday," Greer said.
Spahn said that developing Birthday Dreams has been very fulfilling for her personally, and she has enjoyed watching her 5-year-old daughter, Dani not only help with the parties but learn about generosity when putting the boxes together. She thinks she is the "birthday fairy," Spahn said.
All items for the parties are donated to the nonprofit organization. And, they can always use donations of time, party supplies, toys, and money. The organization, which currently operates out of Spahn and Avery's homes, is actively seeking space to locate their office in downtown Renton.
In Renton, Birthday Dreams has partnered with , Compass Center, . In Puget Sound, they have worked with Union Gospel Mission, The Willows in Seattle, Hopelink in Redmond, and Watson Manor and Mercy Housing Northwest in Kent.
Birthday Dreams will host an auction on Saturday, April 30 from 2-5 p.m. at The New Life Church in Renton.
If you are interested in a leadership position with Birthday Dreams, they are taking applications for three board positions: one as secretary, and two at-large positions. The Birthday Dreams board meets the third Wednesday of the month from 6:30-8:00 p.m.