Can you imagine your childhood without any birthday parties? It's definitely something we all took for granted and expected as kids. For homeless kids living in shelters, it doesn't always happen. Struggling, stressed out parents are more concerned with buying food than birthday presents. So Shannon Avery, and her friend Chris, started Birthday Dreams.
"There was nobody doing birthday parties for the homeless kids," says Shannon. "A lot of the shelters didn't have funding for doing birthday parties. The kids are getting used stuff and it was really tugging on our hearts to do something."
Over the past three and a half years, Birthday Dreams has thrown birthday parties for more than 900 kids from Everett to Tacoma.
"A typical birthday party includes carnival games. We do face painting. We do a craft. Then, of course, cake and ice cream and gifts for the birthday kids. Each of the kids that come to the party goes home with a goodie bag."
The parties at the shelters are run by volunteers, but Birthday Dreams also puts together birthday boxes so a parent can throw their own party.
"We put everything from the streamers to the utensils, all the way up to the cake and the gifts, and then deliver that to the parent or the shelter, wherever they desire that to be delivered to. The parent, actually, throws the party for the child."
Last night dozens of people gathered at south Seattle's Hope Place to celebrate three birthdays. Kids with their faces painted sang Happy Birthday, ate cupcakes and ice cream, and the birthday boys and girls opened their gifts.
"If this organization wasn't here, unfortunately we wouldn't be able to do anything," says Desire, the mother of 3-year-old twins celebrating their birthdays at Hope Place. "That's why I'm so grateful that they are having a birthday party for the children."
Birthday Dreams throws parties for infants through 18-year-olds, because they believe every kid deserves a special day.
"We've heard a lot of them telling us that the kids have never had a party before. The parents have never had a party before," says Shannon. "Funny as it may sound, they don't even know what to do with some of the supplies we give them. Like streamers. I had one mom go, 'What is this? What am I supposed to do with this?'
Thirteen-year-old Anthony lives at Hope Link and says he gets picked on daily because he lives in a shelter. But having these birthday parties makes him feel normal and special.
"I feel that I'm very lucky that I even get to live at a shelter like this, to have a roof over my head, to have a mom that loves and cares. I love my mom, I don't know what I'd do without her. I know she loves me because she tells me every day."
Sweetest. Kid. Ever.
Birthday Dreams is always looking for volunteers to help at parties and deliver birthday boxes. Click here to get in touch with Shannon or Chris.