DURHAM — Every kid should get a chance to celebrate birthdays and Christmases says a group of Ajax women, and they’ve established an organization to help some of the Region’s neediest kids do just that.
Denise Stahl, Amy McGregor, Gina MacGregor and Trish Ramenda run the Dreams and Wishes organization which works with kids referred through shelters and other community agencies.
“We’re all moms and we all have an interest in this, so we meet on a regular basis and we came up with this on our own,” said Ms. Stahl who is the founder and president.
Ms. Stahl works for the Children’s Aid Society in Toronto and said she saw gaps in the services available to kids which is what prompted her to start Dreams and Wishes.
“Eighty per cent of children do not celebrate their birthday because of financial reasons or their family is so caught up with issues a birthday party is not their No. 1 priority,” said Ms. Stahl.
The $100 it may cost to put together, for example, a Transformers-themed kids birthday party is out of reach for families on a tight budget.
“What happens eventually is you stop getting invited (to birthday parties) because you can’t reciprocate and then you’re feeling ostracized,” said Ms. Stahl.
That’s why Dreams and Wishes has a birthday wishes program where families receive everything they need to host a party, including plastic plates and cups, balloons, loot bags and cake mix and frosting.
Popular themes for the parties include action heroes like Spider Man, Thomas the Tank Engine and Disney Princesses. Ms. Stahl said she and members of her organization are always scouring for sales at stores like Party Packagers and are happy to accept donations.
The organization also recently held an un-birthday party, which they’re hoping to turn into an annual event.
“I thought what about the children who are living at the shelters, they won’t have a chance to have a birthday party,” said Ms. Stahl.
The un-birthday party was held on Nov. 8 at the Ajax Boston Pizza where owners donated pizza and pop for the kids and the single-day event celebrated everyone’s birthday at once.
Coming up, the organization is focusing on the Santa’s Dream program where volunteers try to fulfill the Christmas wishes of kids living primarily in local shelters.
“It’s very personalized, it’s very specific to that child’s wish, we try very hard to meet exactly what they’d like and the letters from Santa are personalized,” said Ms. Stahl.
There are a couple of exceptions; if a child asks for a big-ticket item such as a video gaming system, Santa responds that his electronics department is running a little low and the child receives other age-appropriate gifts such as movie passes. However, the overall goal is to make each child feel as unique and special as possible.
Ms. Stahl said her organization is always looking for people and companies to sign up and help, especially with adopting a child’s wish list for the Santa’s Dream program.