I remember having two birthday parties as a kid. My family lived on a little farmette with horses, and my dad had a friend who was a clown (doesn’t everyone’s dad have a friend who is a clown?), so when I turned 6 years old, every kid in town came to my house to celebrate. There were yard games and pony rides and clown-made balloon animals. It was as big of a bash as I had ever seen.
The next party happened when I turned 13. It was a boy-girl event, which was incredibly cool to a newly crowned teenager. I remember the party, but I also remember that year’s gift. I got a phone. It wasn’t an iPhone or a smartphone. It was a lips phone. It was literally shaped like a pair of lips. It plugged into the wall and had a long cord and cutting-edge push buttons instead of a rotary dial.
My heart hurts for you younger readers who have no idea what I’m talking about. Phones are a super big deal now, but let me assure you, they were also a super big deal back then.
Birthday parties are a rite of passage for children. They make kids feel loved and celebrated and hopeful for the future.
Unfortunately, they are also very expensive for parents or grandparents or whoever is guiding and guarding the birthday boy or girl through life.
That’s where resourceful and kind-hearted people of the world, like Nicole Moll, come in. She describes how Box of Balloons got its start:
“A couple years ago, when it seemed like we were in birthday party overdrive, attending a different little friend’s party each weekend, it hit me. There are lots of kids in the world not getting a party. My heart hurt badly. Every single child should feel loved and special on their birthday, the one day each year it can be all about them.
“Knowing that it isn’t possible for all parents or caregivers to give their children a birthday party, I still felt like that couldn’t and shouldn’t be an excuse. There are thousands of people with more than enough resources and huge hearts willing to help.
“With that, Box of Balloons was started. Our mission is to make sure every child is celebrated and each birthday is happy. An overwhelmingly generous team of volunteers, donors and businesses have come together to provide birthday boxes filled with all the necessary party supplies for children in need.
“We work with homeless shelters, domestic abuse shelters, school districts and more to give parents a box that is not only filled with tangible party supplies, but also with the hope they may need.”
In just a couple of years, the organization has lit candles for 507 kids and put down roots in five states, including Wisconsin, Virginia, Maryland, California and Illinois.
Amanda Hirsch is the volunteer chapter leader in Monroe, Wis., and the one who originally invited me to learn about Box of Balloons.
“Our boxes provide these families everything they need for a party: tableware, tablecloth, decorations (banners, crepe paper, balloons), party favors for their guests, cupcakes, a candle and a present. The child gets to pick their party theme and colors and gives us ideas of what they’d want for a present. We fill these boxes and give them to the parents to be able to put the party together for their child.
“It’s a really amazing program and we’ve received such great feedback from it. Our motto is: Every birthday happy. Every child celebrated.”
The long-term goal is to have a Box of Balloons team in every major city throughout the United States. You can learn more or become a volunteer at www.boxofballoons.org. No clown makeup needed.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious, c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.