Birthday Party Project brings the celebration to Dallas shelter kids
Every child deserves a cake and a party on his birthday. Dallas transplant Paige Chenault is so committed to the idea that she founded the Birthday Party Project, a nonprofit organization that brings birthday parties to kids in participating homeless shelters throughout Dallas.
Chenault conceived the idea five years ago. "I was on a plane reading a magazine article about kids' birthday parties," she says. "I kept thinking that I'll be able to throw my kid awesome birthday parties, but there are so many who won't be able to celebrate like [my daughter] Lizzie."
The birthday parties are all about making the kids feel special, teaching them to dream big and feel valued — something these children might never have experienced.
The Birthday Project is now a year and a half old, and Chenault partners with local shelters such as Family Gateway, Genesis Women's Shelter, New Friends New Life, Family Place and Interfaith Housing. The project serves 250 to 300 kids a month.
"When we first started, we committed to partnering with one shelter a year," Chenault says. "I never expected it to take off the way it has."
Chenault says they plan themed parties — Mardi Gras, winter wonderland, spring celebration — at each shelter once a month. The birthday kids (children whose birthdays are that month) receive a birthday bag, a crown or tiara, an individual cake and a $30 present.
At every party there are 12 to 15 birthday enthusiasts, whose "No. 1 goal is to love on the kids and interact with them," Chenault says. All of the kids in the shelter play as a group and with the volunteers, a.k.a. the "birthday enthusiasts." When it's time to sing "Happy Birthday," the birthday kids line up with their candlelit cakes.
The birthday parties are all about making the kids feel special, teaching them to dream big and feel valued — something these children might never have experienced. Chenault credits everyone involved — from the local bakeries that donate the cakes to the incredible board — for the organization's success.
"I would say that at every single party I learn something new," Chenault says. "I learn a little more about these these kids as we continue to bring hope and encouragement to them."
There are no fundraisers for the organization, but people are encouraged to donate gifts online. One hundred percent of the money donated goes directly to the birthday parties. To volunteer, you can go online to see the openings available, submit your information for a background check, and sign up.
For now, Chenault intends to grow the Birthday Party Project at a steady pace. But she says one day she would like to take it national.