Here’s a guest post from Fazana. For more on Jazzy Sun Birthdays, check out the Facebook page. Thanks, Fazana!
Hello, Capital District families! My name is Fazana and I am a stay-at-home mom to a creative and sensitive seven-year-old daughter and a spirited and active two-year-old son. I’m thrilled that Katie has given me the opportunity to let you all know about Jazzy Sun Birthdays, a project that I started six months ago and in which I believe many of you might be interested. What is it I do? I host personalized birthday parties for homeless children.
I believe that allowing children (particularly those who have been exposed to much more hardship than most of us can begin to imagine) to experience some of the simple joys of childhood is important. Giving a child a birthday party may not be poverty-fighting, but it is smile-producing! Most of the children in our lives are fortunate enough to be shielded from the harsh realities of the world. Even if they are exposed to them, it is likely to be in a second-hand fashion. The children I reach are those who know first-hand what it is like not to have a roof over their heads and possibly had their parents struggle to figure out the source of their next meals. Celebrating their birthdays with cake, decorations, games, presents and goody bags will help them feel less like “homeless kids” and more like “regular kids”, if only for a few hours.
I have always loved throwing parties for family and friends–from surprise birthday parties to bachelorette parties to baby showers. After I gave birth to my first child, I added children’s birthday parties to my repertoire. I have derived great pleasure in putting together theme parties (often on a shoestring budget) for my children. The joy in their eyes evident during each party is something I wanted to replicate in the eyes of children whose lives are in a state of flux. There is a lot of focus on homeless children during the holidays in December but a birthday is a very special day for any child (and most adults!) because it is his/her day to shine. Hence, the birth of Jazzy Sun Birthdays!
I am currently volunteering my time with St. Catherine’s Center for Children and hosting parties at their transitional shelter for homeless families in Albany County. I hope to work with additional organizations (such as Joseph’s House in Troy and St. Paul’s Center in Rensselaer) in the near future. At present, I do the following at the family shelter run by St. Catherine’s:
1) Host age-appropriate theme-parties on the third Saturday of each month for all children whose birthdays are in that particular month. (Past themes include Dora the Explorer, Disney Princesses, Justin Bieber, Mickey Mouse, Transformers and Spiderman.)
2) Provide birthday children with 3 to 4 gifts, one of which is a book.
3) Provide pizza and cake along with party games and arts and crafts activities.
4) Distribute goody bags to party attendees (i.e., other homeless children living in the shelter who are not celebrating their birthday).
5) Provide a photo book to each birthday child containing pictures taken during his/her party so they will have lasting memories of the event.
As most of you know, throwing a child’s birthday party generally takes a lot of time and resources. I pound the pavements (usually with my toddler in tow) and send countless emails to try to get as many items as possible donated or sold at reduced prices since my funds are extremely limited. For each of the past six months, different pizzerias have donated pizzas for the parties. I am grateful that most of the cakes to date have been donated by individuals who simply heard about the mission of Jazzy Sun Birthdays and wanted to help out. Many different people have donated gifts, party supplies, and goody bag items thus far. When I do have to purchase items out-of-pocket, my go-to places are Dollar Tree, Yankee Dollar, Walmart, the clearance rack of Party City, Marshalls and Craig’s List.
To ensure that Jazzy Sun Birthdays continues to thrive and grow, I am constantly on the lookout for more wonderful individuals and groups who are willing to lend a hand and/or donate items. I take advantage of all opportunities to get the word out about the project; hence, my excitement about providing a guest post here! So…how can you, your friends, your family, and/or your colleagues help? The beauty of this project is that anyone can be a part of it, no matter how busy your schedule or how tight your finances.
The following is partial list of ways to help:
1) Volunteering at a party by helping with arts and crafts, serving pizza and cake, overseeing games, etc.
2) Putting special skills to use by face painting, making balloon animals, taking photos, etc. during parties.
3) Making up goody bags for 25 to 30 children.
4) Helping with the purchase of gifts/party supplies.
5) Baking a half-sheet cake.
6) Thinking of craft projects to go with the theme of the party.
7) Donating leftover party supplies/decorations and/or unopened gifts to the project.
8) Spreading the word to people you know about Jazzy Sun Birthdays so that I can acquire more volunteers and/or donors of funds/gifts/supplies.
9) Connecting me with business owners who might donate items such as cakes, pizza, paper products, gifts, books, etc.
I would love to expand to more shelters and make more homeless children feel like kings and queens for a day. If you would like to help me do so, please contact me at jazzysunbirthdays [at] yahoo [dot] com. Also, please “like” the Jazzy Sun Birthdays page on Facebook so that you can view photos of past parties, get information about upcoming ones and provide advice on gifts or craft projects, among other things. If you’d like more background about the project, check out the article about Jazzy Sun Birthdays in the September print edition of Capital District Parent Pages. Thanks for reading this guest post! I hope to hear from many of you soon!