Paige Chenault was pregnant with her daughter Lizzie when the idea for the Birthday Party Project (TBPP) was first sparked. The event planner was flipping through a magazine on a long flight when she spotted an image she'll never forget: a malnourished Haitian child, surrounded by people, yet painfully unnoticed.
"It hit me," Chenault says. "What about him? Here I was thinking about Lizzie and all the ways I could use my party-planning skills to celebrate her — lavishly, the Dallas way — and this child would never be celebrated."
She realized she could use her talent for throwing spectacular bashes to benefit those who most "need to feel noticed and valued," and three years later, TBPP was born. The Dallas-based nonprofit hosts birthday parties for children in homeless shelters and transitional facilities.
In January, TBPP turns 5. It's now in 12 cities across the country, and responsible for more than 3,000 birthday celebrations to date.
"Our growth has been so grassroots," Chenault says. "I'm astounded daily that people are pouring into our parties and kids the way they are."
Chenault and her team of "birthday enthusiasts" work with agencies across the country to uphold TBPP's eat-sleep-party-repeat mantra. Even Lizzie, now 8, is in on the fun. She holds the title "joy coordinator" — it's business-card official — and helps at parties and around the organization's Addison headquarters.
Recently, actress Sofia Vergara read about TBPP in the New York Times and reached out with a proposition: She'd design a collection of T-shirts, tanks, and sweatshirts sporting her "No Pain, No Cake" motto and donate a portion of the proceeds to the organization.
Chenault's response? "Of course! It's just beyond that I can even say Sofia Vergara, the New York Times, and the Birthday Party Project in the same sentence!"
It's one more step towards Chenault's goal of making TBPP "a household name" and birthday parties a reality for every child.
"We feel like the sky is the limit," she says. "I've found that when you initiate the opportunity to find joy, great things can happen. My hope is that in 10 years, we're in every single city across the country."