Hello everyone! My name is Ben Wong and I am the co-founder of Birthdays For All, along with my wife, Steffi Green. We are a Charleston based nonprofit that provides birthday presents to foster children in the Lowcountry. Earlier this year, Michelle reached out to us and shared her story about her passion for running, and how she was able to use that passion to help raise money for Miracle Feet to help treat children in the 3rd world born with clubfoot. I was excited to hear that this year, she has signed up for the Rock N Roll Savannah in November and is using it as an opportunity to support Birthdays For All. It’s a real honor for Michelle to choose us, especially with so many great nonprofits out there in Charleston to choose from. Many of whom are much more well-known and well established. So, in case you don’t know about Birthdays For All, this is a great opportunity for me to tell you a bit more about our story.
The idea for Birthdays For All started one day while Steffi was looking around for inspiration for our children’s birthday party. She came across a series of articles from the Post and Courier about the state of foster care in South Carolina. The articles told a story of the deficiency in the state’s foster care system, and the urgent need for more foster families to care for the large number of children admitted to foster care. The severe shortage of foster parents means that South Carolina has the highest percentage of foster children living in group homes in the United States.
According to federal statistics, 25% of foster children under the age of 13 in South Carolina live in a group setting. The National average for this age group is 4%.
And there was our moment of conflict…
So while Steffi was planning an elaborate pirates and princess themed birthday party for our children, she couldn’t shake the thought of hundreds of kids out there that don’t even have any parents around to celebrate their birthdays with. Even for those with foster parents, birthdays can be forgotten or not celebrated because of a lack funds and resources. It can be a painful reminder of what they don’t have.
So one day, on April 8th, 2015, I receive a text from Steffi that says:
“I am starting a nonprofit. I need your help, will talk tonight…love you!”
It was a bit of a shock, because she had never mentioned anything in the past about starting a nonprofit. She told me that she wanted to do something special for the local foster kids, and start a nonprofit called Birthdays For All. The idea was so simple. Why can’t everyone have a birthday celebrated like our own children? The fact is that some children are just less fortunate, but what if we could make a difference on their one special day? We believe that every child has a right to celebrate their birthday.
I was so excited about the idea, that when I got home we started figuring out how we could make it happen.
The next day, Steffi got on the phone with the Department of Social Services and they loved the idea and offered to provide us with the wish lists of the children they had in their system.
I started designing and building the website during the evenings afterwork. The plan was to get something up so that we could start finding people to support us and accept donations.
Less than 30 days later we launched Birthdays For All to the world.
We started getting donations, and immediately started fulfilling wish lists that we received from the social workers. Before long, our house was flooded with birthday presents and we learned very quickly that it takes about a week for us to wrap the presents in our spare time. That led us to organize Wrapping Parties, where we invite our friends and volunteers to get together over drinks and cookies to wrap presents.
Seeing people from the community come together to have fun for a cause is one of the most rewarding things about starting a nonprofit. We’ve already seen so much positive energy from Michelle in the way she pours her passion into fundraising for Birthdays For All. We hope that you can offer her your support so that we can continue our mission to ensure that every foster child gets to celebrate their birthday this year.
Support the fundraiser: www.crowdrise.com/birthdaysforallfundraiser/