Birthday parties are a wonderful thing, not only for the child being celebrated, but for the parents and loved ones who get to watch the joy unfold.
Sadly, many children and families across the country and around the world do not have the opportunity to throw a party in honor of another year gone by.
For homeless families, this is the last thing on their minds. They’re focused on finding jobs, food and shelter, struggling to get through another day.
But Paige Chenault of Dallas, Texas, decided she wanted to be the change these families were waiting for. While they fought to survive, she wanted to fight for them and bring them a little joy in the process.
So, while the soon-to-be mom was sitting and dreaming of the birthday parties she would one day throw her daughter back in 2008, an idea sparked that soon grew and spread like wildfire.
“I was flipping through Parents magazine, actually, and reading an article about kids’ birthday parties,” Chenault told Parents.com. “…seeing these beautiful images, I was really excited bout how I could celebrate her.”
When she moved on to an article in TIME, however, Chenault was touched by a different story, one about a boy in Haiti that led her to ask the question, “What about him?”
Chenault began volunteering in homeless shelters in her own city and throwing monthly birthday parties for the children there.
During the very first party, an 11-year-old boy told Chenault the words she needed to hear to get started on something big.
“Thank you, Ms. Paige,” he said. “This is the first birthday party I’ve ever had.”
By 2012, the mom and former wedding and event planner founded The Birthday Party Project.
“We believe that JOY changes lives, and a JOYful community can change the world,” the project’s mission reads.
“With the help of our birthday enthusiasts (that’s you!) we host monthly birthday parties at homeless and transitional living facilities across the country.”
It didn’t take long for the project to become a success.
Now, according to Parents.com, 15 U.S. cities work with The Birthday Party Project to help bring that joy to the faces of homeless children from ages 1 to 18.
And, fittingly, in 2018 Toyota Mothers of Invention recognized the brilliant and compassionate self-starter for her efforts and hard work.
“We celebrate women who are driving positive change in the world through innovation, entrepreneurship and invention,” MOI says.
Chenault is definitely one of those women. “Every child deserves to be seen,” she says. “Every child deserves to experience joy.”
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