What is your favorite birthday memory from childhood? Do you remember a special cake and everyone singing “Happy Birthday to You!” around the dining room table? For many of us, birthdays were a childhood ritual and a celebration of important milestones. However, what if your birthday was forgotten? What if no one ever sang to you? At Pop-Up Birthday, a non-profit based in Austin, TX, we believe that something as simple as a birthday party has the power to provide joy, hope, and normalcy to a child from a hard place.
When our founder Laila Scott realized that foster children in our community were often overlooked or had never been recognized due to the difficult situations they came from, she felt called to do something about it. In July 2014, she launched Pop-Up Birthday with the mission of celebrating foster children with a personalized birthday in a box – including everything the caregiver would need to host a party based on the child’s wishes.
What started as a few parties a month has since grown into over 100 personalized birthday parties per month!
More than 17,000 children find themselves in the Texas foster care system each year, with over 6,000 children in Travis County alone. While some are placed in licensed foster homes, an overwhelming majority are placed with relatives in “kinship” care. These kinship families receive little help from the state and are often low-income families with multiple children, nieces/nephews, or grandchildren in their care. Our personalized birthday boxes not only recognize the child, but they also provide support to the families who are already juggling so much in their lives.
How does the Pop-Up Birthday process work? Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers, CASA volunteers, residential treatment staff or foster placement agencies submit Pop-Up Birthday requests on behalf of the child. This gives us information such as the child’s name, age, and birthday wishes. A few weeks later, we deliver our signature plastic bin filled to the brim with themed decorations, paper goods, snacks/drinks, goody bags, a gift card for a cake, candles, balloons, a personalized card, and three gifts for each child (a Gift for Fun, a Gift for Need, and a Gift to Read). After the party, the child can reuse the plastic bin for toy/clothing storage or to move to a new placement with dignity (versus a trash bag or pillow case).
How do we keep the party alive? Pop-Up Birthday is a volunteer-run organization and all funding is provided through generous donations from people like you! We also host fundraising events and donation drives for new books, pajamas, gifts and party supplies. It takes a village to keep our birthday warehouse stocked, and we are so grateful for organizations like Nurture My Child who have chosen to support us and share our mission with its clientele.
How can you help? Prepare a birthday box for a foster child with your family or church group, join us at our weekly assembly days, or donate in honor of your birthday at www.popupbirthday.org. Also, don’t miss the Nurture My Child Family Fair on Sunday, October 15th from 1-4pm at the Norris Conference Center where you can bring a new pair of pajamas or a new book to donate directly to Pop-Up Birthday!
Thank you for helping us share birthday joy, foster connection, and celebrate children in foster care, one box at a time.
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