On Friday February 15th Green Valley along with volunteers from across the area threw a massive Birthday Party for the kids at Second Home (read our blog telling all about them). Elizabeth spent countless hours putting together games and fun activities for kids and their families to participate in. All together there were over 10 stations, from face paint, slime making and mummy wrapping to bean bag toss, cotton candy and the “Test your strength” hammer strike game (straight from a carnival). Over 90 dedicated volunteers showed up to help grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and to assist at the stations. Too much fun was being had to think about counting kids and parents, but we served over 100 hotdogs and close to that many hamburgers. The cotton candy machine never stopped and over 90 pieces of cake (homemade of course) were enjoyed. Now to be fair the bags of veggies and dip didn’t seem quite as popular, but hey it was a birthday party.
But why? Why throw a birthday party for kids and families you don’t know? Sure these are hardworking lower income families and these kids may never get to go to “Pump it Up” or “Chucky Cheese’s” for a birthday party, but why? Why all the effort, the time, the money? Why?
Two years ago, I wrote a Mission Statement for Green Valley specifically concerning giving and serving. Here is a glimpse:
“We give intentionally to charities in our community that we feel bring hope and life to people: organizations that empower a person or family to become self-sufficient. We invest our time and giving in charities that work hard at building relationships and restoring a person’s dignity and worth. It is our hope that as we serve out of our own brokenness that God’s grace and love will shine through. As we work and give within our community lives are changed and our whole community is strengthened."
Second Home, certainly embodies these characteristics and there is nothing like a Birthday Party to bring life and hope to someone. Not to mention the opportunity to build relationships. The kids enjoyed supper while waiting for their parents to arrive and sign them out. One by one parents would come and a laughing child, unable to contain their excitement, would head to the birthday party. Meanwhile, I got to visit with tables full of kids. At the girls’ table we shared birth-dates, guessed names, talked about different games they were going to play and we laughed. I even got to meet the “star” playing Tinker Bell in their upcoming musical. Relationships were being built. Later on when they were going from game to game with their parents, I was able to join in and meet Mom or Dad.
Kids have a way of breaking down barriers; they don’t see color or race (at least at this age). It’s a small step, but in April when I see “Tinker Bell” perform and we serve the cast and families a meal, that relationship will grow.
Ok, so that is the official answer to “Why?”.
And while it is true, there is more to the story.
For over 15 years we have volunteered at Pleasant Valley Elementary. First with our own kids and now through Big Brothers Big Sisters. We also were very involved in the foster care system for many years. We have seen kids who missed out on Birthday Parties. We have seen kids left off the invite list and twice I showed up to a birthday party my son was invited to (two different sons), and he was the only person who came. My heart breaks for these kids! In the Old Testament in Genesis, God tells Abraham, “I will bless you, so you can be a blessing to others” (my paraphrase). Through Green Valley and all of these volunteers, we were able to bless these kids and families.
Let me share one last conversation I had with a 10 year old boy. He was sitting with a group waiting for parents and I walked up to visit. I shared about visiting with the girls waiting, but boys can be a little tougher than girls. So I came prepared, while they were eating their hamburgers and hot dogs, anxiously waiting a parent so they could get to the party, I walked up eating my cotton candy.
Conversation came to a halt and eyes lit up; then on little boy spoke. “Cotton Candy! There’s Cotton Candy?”
“Yes,” I answered as I took another bite. Then without knowing it, this little boy made the whole night and all of the work worth it.
He cautiously asked, “Is there enough for everyone?”
"Oh yes!” I said.
His precious, honest response: “Good, because if there wasn’t, I was going to be sad.”