ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Every child should enjoy a birthday party — that’s the motto of nonprofit Happy Birthdays in Round Rock.
“I just had the idea of trying to think of an opportunity for my children to learn how to serve others in the community,” explains CEO and founder Suzanne Gladden, as to how she came up with the idea for Happy Birthdays.
That service project started with more than 100 boxes for a local children’s home, and it kept growing. Gladden and volunteers have turned that idea into thousands of birthday boxes for homeless children and those in foster care. They contain everything kids 1-18 years old might need for a party: plates, napkins, decorations, cake, even gifts.
“In the teenage boxes we try to put gift cards,” says Gladden. “The first child that we made a birthday party box for was 17 years old and she had been in the foster care system since she was two and had never received a birthday party celebration.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services requires agencies to reimburse foster families at least $27 a day for fostering a child at the basic level. Moderate care requires a $47 daily reimbursement, specialized is $58 a day and for intense care, which may include medical treatment, the reimbursement rate is $92 daily.
But that may not be enough for a party, which is where Happy Birthdays comes in. “Just for them to know somebody in the community cares and that they’re remembered and not forgotten.”
Many of the recipients are grateful, sending thank you cards to Gladden and volunteers.
The organization Recognize Good out of Austin is running a contest to help a local “legend” win $10,000 for a nonprofit. To help Happy Birthdays win, you can vote for Suzanne Gladden online.
Happy Birthdays started three years ago and has provided parties for 2,245 homeless and foster children. This year they plan to do about 125 birthdays a month. The nonprofit partners with about 30 organizations serving children from Waco to San Marcos. This year they are trying to raise $130,000 to provide more parties.
You’ll find instructions on how to make a birthday box, what to put in it and where to drop it off or mail them to on their website.
In addition to the per day stipend from the DFPS, some foster agencies have additional grant money or donation funds available to help children and families. For example, foster children who are placed with the agency A World for Children, receive additional support, such as a life-skills summer camp for teens, school supplies and clothing, as well as Christmas parties and gifts.