When you’re a kid, your birthday is one of the greatest days of the year, the day that’s a big celebration of you with cake, candles, singing, friends, and a pile of presents. But it’s not that way when you’re a child and you are homeless.
Megs Yunn found that out in 2011 directly from a young girl named Beverly who’d never had her own birthday party or even a birthday cake. Beverly’s Birthdays was born from that day, an organization founded by Yunn that throws birthday celebrations for homeless children in our area. On Thursday, April 21, Beverly’s Birthdays will have its own birthday party, a fundraising bash at PNC Park.
The fourth annual “An Evening of Birthday Cheer,” an event for grown-ups, is not the typical charity gala. “This is a fun birthday party with a casual feel that just happens to be our largest annual fundraiser,” says Josh Whiteside, director of development.
“Gourmet ballpark fare” is how Whiteside describes the menu for the evening, adding that all of PNC Park’s club-level restaurants and activities will be open for guests, including a new taco and taqueria bar.
The style of the event is designed to reflect the organization’s dedication to fun, and the goal is simple—to help Beverly’s Birthdays continue the growth and success they’ve had in their first four years. “At the end of 2012, our first year, we were partnered with four shelters and served about 50 kids and families,” Whiteside says. “Since then, because the public has been so supportive, we now work with 44 shelters and have served about 5,000 kids and families.”
Whiteside emphasizes that Beverly’s Birthdays is not striving to grow geographically, but in expanding the programming for the children they serve. “There’s a huge need right here in the Pittsburgh area, the six-county region, and the funds from the event will help us serve them even better,” Whiteside says.
Beverly’s Birthdays offers several programs for their partners, including monthly or seasonal birthday parties, “Classroom Cheer” kits for teachers in low-income schools, and “Itty Bitty Birthday Cheer” for newborns or baby showers. The programs vary, and so do the circumstances of the children. “Homelessness looks like a lot of things. It’s not always an emergency shelter or a transitional shelter. It’s any place where a child is living and may not be recognized or celebrated on his or her birthday,” Whiteside says. “We give them a day to have a lot of fun, and give a positive, happy memory for them and their families.”
Public awareness has been key to Beverly’s Birthdays, not only with gaining donations but also recruiting volunteers. Often, Whiteside says, kids are the best at getting their families to help the needy kids because they “get it” when it comes to the importance of birthdays. “A huge part of our success is that we resonate with kids. They tell their parents and then the family gets involved, which is really cool because it’s usually the other way around.”
Volunteers, and volunteer families, sometimes help at parties, but they also bake, put together treat bags and Classroom Cheer kits, or even have their own birthday parties where they ask guests to bring gifts for Beverly’s Birthdays.
With the help of a big turnout for An Evening of Birthday Cheer, Whiteside says, Beverly’s Birthdays will be able to give birthday celebrations to more than 1,200 children in 2016 alone. While each celebration will be a bit different, he says, most end the same, with a happy child saying some of the sweetest words you can hear— “This is the best birthday I ever had.”
For more information on An Evening of Birthday Cheer, or to buy tickets, visit the event page. To learn about the programs Beverly’s Birthdays offers, and ways to donate or volunteer, visit Beverly’s Birthdays.