Organization throws birthday parties for kids who wouldn't otherwise get one

Organization throws birthday parties for kids who wouldn't otherwise get one

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's practically a right of passage: a childhood marked by annual birthday cakes and blowing out candles. Some of the luckier kids get piles of gifts or a special day. But some local kids have never seen a birthday party... until now.

A Richmond woman is behind a growing a non-profit to help all children celebrate growing older with a birthday party. The organization is called Celebrate! RVA, and if its impact was measured in smiles, it would be immeasurable.

We stopped by one celebration at Oak Grove Bellemeade Elementary School, experiencing that moment as volunteers sang "Happy Birthday" to dozens of children. It's a magic moment: the sweet taste of cake, a birthday song, and knowing in that moment, you're surrounded by people who think you're special. 

But this organization knows that joy -- and for that matter, birthday parties -- are not a guarantee for every child.

"We know a lot of children who don't know their own birthdays," says Celebrate! RVA founder Julia Warren. "They don't know what to do with a candle that's placed in front of them."

It's a sad reality that drove Warren to make a change. They call her "the girl in the party hat" for good reason.

She founded the non-profit, Celebrate! RVA. The group throws birthday parties -- really fun ones -- for kids who wouldn't otherwise have one. The result is giggling elementary school children laughing and playing and filling their bellies with a big frosted piece of birthday cake.

"They sung 'Happy Birthday!' You gotta make a wish." explained a breathless Nave Woolfolk, who was celebrating turning 11.

"They lit the candle like it was a real birthday and everything!" added Jermaine Williams, also turning 11. "And it was fun."

The organization is mostly volunteer driven. In this case, kids played outside games and ate cake. They may be simple memories, but they're ones with a big impact for these children.

"They're real cool for doing that," said Jasmine Claiborne, celebrating her 11th birthday.

Celebrate! RVA hasn't even celebrated its own second birthday! But it's expanding quickly, now serving several elementary schools where poverty is pervasive. Plus, some children impacted by domestic violence.

"We believe that a birthday party, as small as it might seem, a child will remember that joy and the time that a volunteer took to celebrate their lives for the rest of their lives," said Warren. "They will remember that and probably pass it along to another person and just that joy will be you know it's just a chain movement."

It's a mission that keeps Warren in a party hat, and making birthdays special, one piece of birthday cake and one smile at a time.

If you'd like to join the volunteer effort to celebrate birthdays, just click here.

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