Rosie’s Birthday Club is a nonprofit that organizes birthday parties for children in poverty. See for yourself how much joy this organization brings.
Vicki Benson smiles when remembering her childhood birthday parties. Growing up, her birthday was a magical day full of cake, presents and time spent with family. The warm feelings of being recognized are still vivid in her memory.
“My mom, Rosie, always made sure my siblings and I were celebrated,” Benson says. “It’s important to recognize how much we matter.”
A few years ago, when volunteering in a kindergarten class, Benson was startled to realize that most of the children there had never had a birthday party. In fact, most of the kids didn’t know what day their birthday was.
It struck her heart.
“I wanted to do something about it,” Benson says. “I wanted these kids to get cake and presents and, most importantly, to feel like somebody cared about them.”
With a nod to her mother’s compassion, Benson began Rosie’s Birthday Club, in 2009, with her friend Barb Verni-Lau. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to celebrate children up to age 18, no matter what their circumstances. At the first party, Benson had just $25 to celebrate one child at Northwest Community Center. Now, birthday parties are hosted at eight locations, from rescue missions to shelter care centers. More than 4,500 celebrations have commenced.
“You know, they’re just kids,” Benson says. “You often hear the word ‘entitlement’ these days, but none of these kids asked to be born. Yet here they are, living in poverty, having birthdays, and I think they deserve a celebration just like any other kid. They are grateful for our visit.”
Originally, Benson wanted every child to have a party on his or her individual birthday, but she quickly realized that goal was unrealistic. Now, birthdays are celebrated by month. Parties start out with that month’s birthday kids decorating a hat with markers, stickers and other materials. Then, at most locations, all the non-birthday kids join in to play a game, make a craft and eat cake. The birthday kids get to take home a book and a present from their wish list, such as a Barbie doll or football.
“I’ve seen kids who get a present and they absolutely don’t know what to do with it,” Benson says. “There are kids who open presents and give them back to us – they think it’s for the center, they don’t realize it’s theirs to keep.”
Rosie’s Birthday Club is fully operated by volunteers. Nobody gets paid to pick up balloons or play games with the children – not even Benson, who puts in 10 to15 hours a week.
“We have a wonderful board with a strong commitment to the work of Rosie’s,” Benson says. “Without them, we couldn’t achieve our joyous goal.”
The nonprofit is always looking for more volunteers, whether to play games with the kids or simply pick up and drop off a birthday cake – or better yet, adopt a birthday child. Adults, teens and children accompanied by adults can volunteer as individuals or sign up with a group to participate in a party. The “I Volunteer” page on the nonprofit’s website – rosiesbirthdayclub.org – makes it easy to see the dates, locations and responsibilities.
People can also make a monetary donation or donate presents.
“I just think it’s nice to give these kids a spotlight for once,” Benson says. “Each and every single one of us matters. That’s why birthdays are important to celebrate.”