In Calgary, job loss, depression, poverty and an economic downturn plague the Canadian nation just as it does so many others. But thanks to two women with a vision, The Happy Birthday Project is ensuring children in Calgary no longer pass their birthdays without a smile.
Crystal Gelsinger and Mandy Watts were two childhood friends and recent mothers. One day in 2012, they stumbled upon an advertisement searching for cake mix donations for families that didn’t have the means to bake a cake for their child’s birthday. The simple ad launched an innovative idea and project that has now brought hundreds of children smiles.
The Happy Birthday Project, now an official non-profit organization, provides the basic supplies to poverty-stricken families to throw a child birthday party.
“We know we’re not going to change their lives, but we hope we can give them a little bit of joy,” Gelsinger told the Calgary Sun.
The organization hands out “party packs,” which consist of birthday cake mix, cake pan or cupcake wrappers, cutlery, plates, cups, decorations, snacks, gift bags, as well as a special gift for the child.
The organization learns about the children before they shop. They find out what each child likes to do, their hobbies and interests, so they are better able to form the perfect, hand-made custom party pack.
According to Gelsinger and Watts, every child deserves to feel special and celebrated on their birthday. Their mission is to bring joy to the lives of children and families facing adversity.
“It just breaks my heart because we all love our children the same but we just don’t all have the same means to provide a birthday cake, a birthday party,” Gelsinger told the paper.
The Happy Birthday Project grew extensively after creation. Once the program reached a certain size, the two women could no longer able to lead it by themselves. The group most recently was taken over by another organization known as Made by Momma.
Since the new organizer’s expansion, 737 birthday packages have been handed out to families in need. The Happy Birthday Project now also throws actual birthday parties at both the nearby party House in Calgary and the Brenda Strafford Centre.
The organization serves the families referred to them through local Calgary social agencies. The families are referred by a social worker, social agency or shelter.
The Happy Birthday Project accepts donations and volunteers. They are looking for delivery drivers, event volunteers, donation drive organizers, craft committee members and special project volunteers.
The organization is also accepting donations for party items. If you have extra unused paper plates, streamers, child-themed gift wrappings, batteries, or scotch tape, they can be donated to this valuable cause. A full list of the needed supplies can be found on their website. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can visit the organization’s website for more information.
– Katie Grovatt