COVID-19 has created difficult circumstances for families across southwestern PA. With so many parents out of work, many families are forgoing some of the luxuries so many of us take for granted. To help, Beverly’s Birthdays has provided community support throughout the pandemic. Under founder Megs Yunn’s guidance, the nonprofit has found new ways to safely continue its mission of throwing birthday parties for underserved children and supporting the Pittsburgh region as a whole by assisting expectant mothers and providing baby supplies to new parents.
How Beverly’s Birthdays Started
Beverly’s Birthdays started nearly a decade ago after Megs Yunn met a fifth-grader named Beverly. During their conversation, Beverly revealed that she had never had a birthday party before.
“I felt like someone sucker-punched me,” Yunn said. “My eyes immediately filled up with tears.”
Distraught over the reality that a child could miss a birthday, Yunn decided to take action. Less than a year later, she founded Beverly’s Birthdays in Beverly’s honor.
Many Ways to Support Children and Families
Today, Beverly’s Birthdays is best known for throwing birthday parties, but it actually supports children through six different programs it calls its Land of Cheer. They are:
1. Birthday Parties. Many of the birthdays Beverly’s Birthdays hosts are group parties held at shelters, schools, and partner agencies. Birthdays are grouped together based on the month or time of year, and each one has its own unique theme, party games, and decorations. In an average year, Beverly’s Birthdays hosts 180 group parties!
2. Birthday Cheer Bins. Beverly’s Birthdays coordinates 7,000 curated gift baskets each year for children in struggling families and foster homes. These bins are packed with books, hygiene products, and snacks, all of which can be difficult to attain in the low-income houses and the foster system.
3. Itty Bitty Birthday Cheer. The Itty Bitty Cheer program supports pregnant mothers-to-be in under-resourced communities by providing bins filled with essential items for newborns. The program was inspired by one of Yunn’s own trips to a women’s shelter. “I was pregnant with my second son and I realized that I had a lot more support than these other women. I knew that after they left the hospital, they would come right back to the shelter and be in the same position as before.”
4. Birthday-in-a-Bag. Working with their agency partners, Beverly’s Birthdays distributes pre-assembled bags packed with cake mix, frosting, plates, cups, napkins, and everything else necessary for a small birthday party.
5. Classroom Cheer. This program partners Beverly’s Birthdays with local low-income elementary and primary schools so that teachers receive Classroom Cheer Kits. These kits are loaded with supplies for teachers to recognize student birthdays, including pencils, buttons, and birthday crowns.
6. The Birthday Boutique. Nicknamed #HopeOnAHanger by the volunteers at Beverly’s Birthdays, the Birthday Boutique is a mobile fashion truck for birthday boys and girls to pick three new outfits, pajamas, socks, and underwear. All of the clothes still have their original tags on them, and that’s vital to the overall experience. “There’s so much dignity in having something new,” Yunn says. “So many of these children are used to getting clothes second-hand. Many times, children in the foster system simply receive a bin of used clothes, and they’re told to go through it and find something that fits.”
Continuing Support Through COVID-19 and Beyond
Because so many of the organization’s goals rely on physical proximity, Beverly’s Birthdays has found new ways to celebrate birthdays in light of COVID-19.
“We completely stopped in April until we could figure out what to do next,” Yunn says. “In May, we started holding virtual parties, and then, in June, we moved to a curbside model.”
Yunn is happy to hold birthdays again, but she is especially passionate about continuing the organization’s newest services for families and babies.
“COVID poked a lot of holes in our systems and showed just how difficult it can be to raise a child.”
Recognizing the shortages of diapers and formula, Beverly’s Birthdays decided to contribute as much as possible.
“We distributed more than $124,000 of baby products between April and June,” Yunn says.
Together, these donations supported more than 2,000 babies and families in the Pittsburgh area.
A Focus on Families
As transformational as the birthday parties are for children, their parents benefit just as much. For parents who have dealt with addiction, job loss, or other factors that interfere with the ability to provide a birthday party, Beverly’s Birthdays does more than simply provide cake and candles. “To know that an eight-year-old is able to have a birthday that they can remember with their parents happy and present, that’s the real gift. That is what Beverly’s Birthdays is trying to do. It’s about creating meaningful, powerful memories for families that are filled with joy.”
If you’d like to learn more about Beverly’s Birthdays, visit their website. Yunn invites everyone to consider different ways of contributing, whether that means “donating” a birthday and starting a Facebook fundraiser or asking for people to donate gifts to children in need.
At Dugan & Associates, we’re inspired by the contributions Beverly’s Birthdays has made to our community. If you’d like to learn more about our community engagement or our legal work, contact us.