Texas resident Paige Chenault is extremely fond of birthdays and loves celebrating them, and she believes everyone should be given the opportunity to celebrate their own, even the homeless. She especially has a heart for homeless children, and thus, she makes it a point to organize and host beautiful and memorable parties for the ones in her community—celebrations that they will remember for the rest of their lives. She started by organizing a few gatherings in Dallas. Later on, she founded a nonprofit organization called The Birthday Party Project, and it has been so successful that it now has several chapters across the US.
Paige Chenault: Texas Woman Organizes Birthday Parties for Homeless Children
Chenault proved the perfect person to make all those children happy on their birthdays, what with her extensive experience working as a wedding planner. She first conceived the idea when she was on a plane and reading a magazine about kids’ birthday parties; at the time, she was pregnant with her daughter.
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“I was just dreaming about all the great stuff that I could do for my daughter, just because I was an event planner, so I thought, ‘If anybody could throw a big bash, it was going to be me for my kid,’” Chenault said.
After that, Paige Chenault picked up another magazine, where she read about the poor children in Haiti who didn’t have anything at all, much less have the chance to celebrate their birthdays. In that moment, she realized that there were millions of children all over the world who did not only have the basic things like food and shelter but also the chance to celebrate their own special natal days.
“That’s where the idea came from, and it really started stirring in me,” she said.
Chenault immediately got down to business, and she started figuring out how she would go about planning and organizing birthday parties for the homeless kids in her neighborhood, especially since she was pregnant. There was one thing she knew, though: it was that she would have to get to know her community a little bit better.
She got her husband in on the project, and together they did some research about homelessness and its particular culture. They even went so far as to volunteer at several homeless agencies in the effort to better understand the people whom they would be serving in the future.
After several months of research and planning, The Birthday Party Project was finally launched in 2012, with the aim of organizing birthday parties for the homeless children of Texas. After four years, the organization was able to expand its operations to areas like San Francisco, Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and New York City. It also has thousands of volunteers across the country.
These volunteers, who give themselves the fancy title of “birthday enthusiasts,” visit several homeless and transitional facilities all over the US every month in order to host birthday parties for all the homeless children in their respective areas for each month. A party usually costs around $400 to $1,000 to organize, and that sum would depend on the number of children involved in each party.
This year alone, around 180 parties were planned and organized, and they all boasted the typical birthday party elements such as decorations, games, music, entertainment, and cake. Each child would receive their own party hat, badge, solo cake, and a present that cost about $30.
“A lot of these children don’t know how to blow out a candle or even make a wish,” Chenault said.
The children involved in the parties were, needless to say, incredibly happy, and so were their parents.
According to Maureen Jones, whose son Jayden recently celebrated his own party, “Most of us don’t have the energy, the funds, or even the correct channels to provide our own children with a celebration like this. I couldn’t give Jayden what they gave him. It was so beautiful.”
Nadia, another mother and a domestic violence survivor, also had something to say after attending the party for her own son, which was held at a domestic violence shelter: “It’s a mind-blowing experience. Coming from such pain and trauma, it’s so nice to be able to relax for a minute, take a breather and to see that smile back on my child’s face. I have no words to describe the happiness and joy that I am feeling.”
Paige Chenault credits the generous donations of sponsors from all across the country for making her vision come into fruition.
“My goal is that each child feels something that lets them know how important they are, how much they matter,” she said. “They deserve to be celebrated, that in this moment of chaos in their life, this moment of confusion, that there is light and that there are people out there cheering for them.”
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