Brighter Birthdays threw itself a birthday party Sunday, complete with balloons, ice cream and cake.
“We turned 3 on 3/3, so we decided to have some fun with it,” said Cristin Warden, founder and chief executive officer.
The nonprofit is dedicated to making sure no local elementary school child’s birthday passes without notice. Volunteers and sponsors put together backpacks containing party fixings and small gifts and distribute them with the help of the schools.
Warden said there are children around the community whose families either can’t afford to mark their special day or don’t remember. Brighter Birthdays gave out 250 birthday bags in its first year and 1,000 last year. This year they’ve got a list of over 2,200.
“We’ve just taken on teen moms,” she said. “They also get a backpack with a birthday party in it, but it’s filled with the basics — baby wipes, diapers, medical kits with thermometers, things like that.”
The party for volunteers and sponsors was not without its serious side. A silent auction of donated items raised money to continue their mission. But the crowd of about 45 who braved the afternoon thunderstorm to get to the Seven Hills Building on Broad Street was mainly interested in cake.
“And the ice cream. Don’t forget the ice cream bar,” Shanon Wilson said with a laugh, pointing to the decorated table hosting a wide array of toppings.
In the corner, a craft table was set up for kids to decorate a terra cotta pot and plant some flower seeds to take home.
“We’re planting our seeds of growth,” Warden said.
At the door Linda Briel, who teaches card-making, was welcoming guests and getting them to sign a giant birthday card she’d made for the occasion. Briel said she heard about Brighter Birthdays and offered to help — and Warden said they could use about 2,000 cards.
“Well, I rallied some friends and customers and we had 4,000 birthday cards in two months,” said Briel. “One young man in Adairsville, 11 years old, took it on as a school project and raised 500 cards. He’s going to go far in life.”
But everyone in the room has a great story, she added.
A number of teens and parents joined up as a family project. Some were just moved by the idea of young children missing out on a celebration of their birth. For others like Nicci Ramierez, a sponsor who became a volunteer as well, it’s personal.
“I used to be one of those kids who didn’t get anything,” she said. “Anything I can do to help kids now, I’m on it.”
For more information, including how to help, visit the website at BrighterBirthdays.org.