Monday, April 20, 2015

New Service Organization Provides Birthday Parties For Children



We recently spoke with Kelly Gindele, director of a new service organization dedicated to providing birthday parties to children who would not ordinarily get one due to poverty, homelessness, serious illness, disability or tragedy. Read on to find out more and how you can help. 

What inspired the birth of Celebrate Inc.? 
My husband, Eric Gindele, and I founded it earlier this year though it's been something we've been wanting to do for some time. My husband's aunt, Clara Steinmetz, also joined our cause soon after​ its inception. 

Probably around this time last year, I was trying to find a service organization where I could really involve my children. It was difficult as most non-profits really do not allow children to volunteer directly. So I started to try to think of something we could start as a family to give back to the community. Since my children were little, I have always loved putting together themed birthday parties for each of their birthdays. We have made it a fun process. They each get to pick their theme and then they help come up with the decorations, food items, cake, etc. And we make a lot of the decorations and favors from hand together. I really wanted to figure out a way to use the love we have of putting together parties as a service project, but I wasn't really sure how we could do it.  

Then, my cousin and his wife's unborn child was diagnosed with some very serious conditions, including a heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. He was born in September and had to have the first of several surgeries soon after birth. I watched the attention and energy they gave to his care. And this constant care would have to continue for several years, if not, his entire life. It was through this period that it occurred to me that we could provide birthday parties to children who were suffering from serious illnesses or disabilities. The parents have to invest so much of their time, energy, and money into care that they usually cannot devote much to birthday parties to these kids. Their health and well being have to be their No. 1 priority, so I thought we might be able to step in and help out.

I really wanted to be able to give Joey a birthday party this year since he was a driving force behind my wanting to create Celebrate. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks ago as a result of his condition. His passing makes us want to work even harder to make this organization successful and give these children parties as we never know when this birthday could be their last.  

We started researching this and realized there was actually a bigger need than just illnesses and disabilities where the kids may not get to celebrate. We started to look at disadvantaged children as well and decided we wanted to provide parties to them as well. Then, at the beginning of the year, my daughter's friend suddenly and unexpectedly lost her mother. This again opened our eyes to another need for children, so we again expanded our scope to children who have suffered tragedies.

Ultimately, we believe that every kid deserves a fun birthday no matter their circumstances.  We want them to be able to forget all their suffering if only for a day or even a few hours, so they can just laugh and enjoy their special day.

How do you pinpoint children who could benefit from a birthday party?
Currently, we are working with Bright Days through the Brighton Center. They have a low-income daycare center, so all of the kids fit into our mission. We provide monthly parties where we celebrate the "birthday kids" who have a birthday that month. But, also it benefits all of the kids each month because it's something they can all look forward to whether it's their birthday or not. We bring in cupcakes, we play games, and they all get treat bags.  They love it.

I have also started to make some contacts in the medical field, with homeless shelters, and with child disability organizations to try to find other children to serve as well. We also accept private nominations as well.  

We are still really new and so are working to get our organization recognized so that we can open the doors to serve even more children.

How often do you plan on hosting parties? How many children do you hope to help this year
Currently, we have monthly parties scheduled with Bright Days. They have a roster of over 60 children, so, at the very least, we intend to serve every child in their center.  However, we are hoping to have at least 6 other parties this year, ideally, for kids who are seriously ill or disabled.  We really want to expand into that need base as well.



You recently hosted your first baseball themed birthday party. How did the children react?
The kids absolutely loved it. We played "Pin the Ball in the Catcher's Mitt" (obviously a spin on Pin the Tail on the Donkey). We also played a Three Strikes game where the kids tried to toss soft baseballs through a hanging hula hoop. We had a few other games as well. We had two birthday boys who received donated Thirty One cinch bags with their names and a baseball embroidered on them. They also each received a stuffed Toy Story Rex, a baseball, a mitt, and a bat. The kids each received Reds sunglasses, a small soft baseball, Reds crazy straws, and Goldfish crackers. They were so excited. We had so many of them hugging us, thanking us, and telling us how much fun we were. It was so fulfilling for us as volunteers that we could bring that kind of joy to these kids by just spending a couple hours with them!



Why do you believe a service like this is necessary in Northern Kentucky?
Honestly, I think this is a necessity anywhere. All kids should have the opportunity to celebrate, especially their birthdays. But so many do not get that opportunity. There are thousands of kids in the Greater Cincinnati area that are homeless; thousands more live in poverty; and thousands more suffer from serious illness, disability, or tragedy. These kids need something they can look forward to, something that will let them just be a kid if just for a day, or even just a few hours. Every child deserves that. 
 
How do you raise funds? What can people do to help support your organization?
We raise funds in a variety of ways. We accept donations —either cash or party items. We have a very active Facebook page where we post our party needs. We are also currently planning two fundraisers. The first is our Birthday Bash Charity Dinner & Silent Auction on May 29, 2015 at the Vinoklet Winery. It will be headlined by local band, Kait and the California Kings, and magician, Brett Sears. We will also have numerous silent auctions—we have already received over $3,300 in silent auction item donations—and other games. Tickets include dinner, unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks, and the entertainment. It is going to be a lot of fun. We are also planning a more family friendly event at the Florence Freedom ballpark on July 25. It is Halo night at the park, and after the game, there will be a concert and a kickball game on the field. It's going to be a lot of fun for the entire family.  

As for support, we have been so grateful for all of the donations we have received to-date plus the volunteers. But, we have a constant need in both areas. We need money to keep the parties going as well as party supply donations. And, we need volunteers. As we grow, we will need volunteers to plan and coordinate parties in addition to volunteers that can attend the parties.  

For anyone that would like to buy Birthday Bash tickets, Florence Freedom tickets, donate cash or party supplies, or volunteer, they can contact me at kelly@celebrateinc.org or they can reach out to us on Facebook.We have a website, but it's still under construction.  We're hoping to have it up and running soon.

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