Children's Birthday Project
What is the Children’s Birthday Project?
This project reaches out to children ages 3 to 12 who live in poverty in DuPage and Kane Counties. Our goal is to create wonderful memories to last a lifetime. We place very special and unforgettable birthday packages in children’s hands on their most special day — their birthdays! We have provided gifts to as many as 1,200 children a year.
How does the Project work?
Individuals, schools, groups, businesses, manufacturers, publishers, and distributors donate new toys and books for us to send to children on their birthdays. Volunteers select toys and books for a specific child. Other volunteers then carefully wrap each gift with bright paper and colorful ribbons and bows. Last, we box up the presents, ready for the Birthday Boy or Girl.
Each Birthday Box weighs 20-25 pounds and contains 6-15 new toys, depending on value; 4 new books; a game or activity kit; plush animals; several smaller gifts such as bubbles, yo-yos, and playing cards; school supplies; and a “Party-in-a-Box” with cake mix and frosting, candles, party favors, cups, plates, napkins, and more!
If families are unable to pick up their children’s birthday box at our center, we ship the special packages via UPS right to their doors. They know only that the boxes come from their friends at the Children’s Birthday Project. All donors remain anonymous. Children and families are not obligated whatsoever. There are no strings attached.
Why is this Project so important?
There are over 37,500 children under 18 years old in DuPage and Kane Counties who are living at or below the poverty level. This project is an opportunity to create positive memories that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Low self-esteem is endemic among the poor, which makes these children as they grow older susceptible to negative influences such as gangs. Gangs provide them with a sense of belonging and status that they don’t get anywhere else. By starting this program at age 3, before children are subject to significant peer influences, and continuing it until age 12, the beginning of middle school, this program seeks to build up the children’s self-esteem by letting them know that they are special, that other people care about them. If the program has been effective, gangs and other criminal associations will hold no appeal for the children in CBP.
For a first-hand perspective of what this kind of program can mean to a needy student, here’s an excerpt from a joint testimonial by Evelyn and Larry Erven, two long-time HSP volunteers with over 60 years of teaching experience in DuPage County schools between them:
Since we live in an area that is generally well-off, many people do not realize how much need there is. We have seen childhood poverty in our ‘rich suburban schools’ over the course of our careers.
Children show up for school without their school supplies on the first day. A pleasant trip to the store to buy school supplies will not be a childhood memory for them.
They usually make an excuse: “I forgot” or “My mom says we are going to get my things this weekend.”
It is heartbreaking when the teacher asks the children to take out their crayons and one student does not have them. These are the same children who do not have a Halloween costume or valentines to pass out at the Valentine Day party. They don’t have new clothes or shoes to wear. They say they don’t want to go on a field trip when, in reality, they don’t have the money for the bus fee. They don’t participate in the PTA-sponsored pizza lunch because they can’t afford the $3 collected from each student. They are the students who do not turn their school project in on time because they don’t have poster boards and markers at home.
They are the children who receive free or reduced price lunches.
They can’t go to birthday parties because they can’t afford the gift. And, of course they don’t have birthday parties for themselves. At Christmas, Santa brings gifts for other children, not for them. In an area as rich as ours, these children just feel different from the other children.
This feeling of being different can doom a child’s education. All teachers know that a child cannot learn if he is uncomfortable. The teacher makes sure the room is not too hot or too cold. He makes sure the desks are the right size. He makes sure the child feels he is a valuable member of the class, that he has the ability to learn, and that the teacher likes and cares about him. Feeling different is very uncomfortable for anyone, but certainly for children. Feeling different contributes to a lack of self-esteem and a lack of concentration in the classroom. If a child is thinking about how he is going to explain why he doesn’t have his project done (no materials at home to do it), he is not concentrating on the lesson at hand. If every other child has new things, school supplies, nutritious lunches, birthday parties, and Christmas gifts, the impoverished child is, very simply, uncomfortable.
Does the Project make a difference?
YES! We receive wonderful thank-you letters all year long, letting us know that the birthday gifts and books provide joy to the children who receive them. Please click here to see a few of the thank-you notes that we have received.
Adopting a needy child for a whole year in the Children’s Birthday Project is only $54. For that, the child receives a personalized 20-25 birthday box and gifts from his or her wish list at Christmas. Children and their families also become eligible for the benefits of other HSP programs including Feed the Kids (click here for more information) and the Christmas Offering (click here).
More important, children gain a sense of hope about the future, and a feeling that they are special, since someone they don’t even know cared enough to do this just for them.
Yes, I want to adopt a child for just $54 a year. (click here).