By Isabella Brady
A new arrival to the myriad of clubs offered at Westmont, Birthday Friends is the first of this organization to be placed in a high school setting. However, the club is significant for its purpose, altogether different from any clubs currently offered at school. Here, fun and creativity are a requirement, baking is greatly appreciated and finding the necessities to throw kids in the community an awesome birthday party is the mission. The club offers its services to kids 2-18 years old in the Bay area by providing the cake, a present and grocery money, so parents can give their kids the special recognition they deserve.
Birthday Friends is part of an emerging non-profit called Birthday Fairies, founded nine years ago by Rachel Ruggiero, a resident of the Los Gatos community. She started this organization herself, saying “my daughter was in 1st grade and I wanted to find a hands on volunteer experience that we could participate in together. It is very important to me to teach my children the value of giving back, I figured if they could be involved in the process from start to finish it would make a bigger impact on them”. Since then, Rachel has helped countless families in the community, her inspiration rooted in happy memories from her own childhood, reflecting “as a child my parents always found a way to make my birthdays special. I always invited my entire class and I have such fond memories of my parties. I enjoy giving back by helping others make similar happy memories.”
“For many low income children and families birthdays are a stressful and sad time,” Ms. Ruggiero admits, “we [Birthday Fairies] aim to change that and give families the necessities to celebrate their birthdays. We believe every child or teen deserves to have a happy and memorable birthday.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created challenges for the group, yet Rachel’s favorite part of her service remains the same; “my favorite part of this process is when we hear back from the families with the ways in which we brightened their families lives” she says, “sometimes they send us photos of the kids opening their gifts or in front of their cakes, their sweet and happy smiles are priceless!”
While this challenge has caused some changes to “the way in which some of our volunteers choose to give gifts –opting to mail or email them directly to the families instead of physically delivering them,” Birthday Friends club and organization are open to any efforts the community are willing to make to get involved.
However there has also been much success throughout the past year, as many families need financial support during these unprecedented times. Rachel recalls a birthday which stood out to her, “We helped a widowed father celebrate his son’s 6th birthday” she says, “he wanted to make it extra special for his son since he had recently lost his mother. In addition to our usual donations we were able to get Kona Ice to donate their services, their truck came to the little boy’s street and served him and all his neighborhood friends for free in honor of his birthday.”. As Birthday Fairies becomes available to students in the Westmont community through the club Birthday Friends, everyone is welcomed and encouraged to “help as much or as little as they’d like.” The club provides the perfect experience for anyone who wants to give back to the community, especially kids. Currently, the club is fundraising for a girl who will turn five on the 26th of March, where representatives will deliver the products to the family according to COVID-19 guidelines.
To become a member, or learn more about Birthday Friends club, enter the remind code @fb6f7a to 81010 or follow them on instagram @bdayfriends.whs.