Today’s HOPE Week details from the Yankees…
The New York Yankees are proud to hold the fourth day of HOPE Week 2013 (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) on Thursday, July 11, by celebrating Birthday Wishes, a group that throws birthday parties for homeless children in an effort to lift their self-esteem and bring joy into their families’ lives.
Homeless families with children celebrating birthdays this month will be the Yankees’ special guests at Yankee Stadium. The group will first arrive at the Gate 2 lobby before visiting the field, entering through the centerfield fence. They will walk around the warning track to the Yankees dugout, where they will meet Yankees manager Joe Girardi. They will then be brought to a suite where Yankees players Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, David Phelps and bullpen coach Mike Harkey will be waiting to surprise them with a birthday party, including live music, games, food and cake.
For parents and children living in homeless shelters, nothing can be taken for granted. Luxuries are entirely out of reach, and the basics are usually the stuff of dreams. That’s where Birthday Wishes comes in. The group was founded in November 2002 by Lisa Vasiloff, Karen Yahara and Carol Zwanger—three friends and colleagues who wanted to help homeless children build self-esteem. Having volunteered in several homeless shelters, the trio realized (as they attended their own children’s birthday parties) that the birthdays of children living at shelters often went unnoticed and uncelebrated.
Birthday Wishes believes that every child, regardless of their living situation, should have their birthday recognized and celebrated. The organization has found that something as simple and “normal” as a birthday party has the power to provide validation to these children that they are members of society like any “regular kid.” Often, these parties allow the children to feel special and give them a rare moment in the sun.
The first Birthday Wishes parties were held at the Second Step shelter in Newton, Massachusetts. Within a few months, eight more shelters were added, and within three years, growth had doubled. Birthday Wishes currently serves more than 175 shelters and transitional living facilities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Long Island. The rapid and continued growth of Birthday Wishes is due in large part to community involvement and the spirit of volunteerism that it fosters. Everyone can relate to the importance of a birthday, and this has meant a great deal of grassroots support.
Photo from the Yankees