My mother came to my school on my birthday to surprise me. She had multiple fun activities planned for the day, but kept reminding me that I needed to be ready to leave the house by 5 pm.

I was so curious about what exactly she was taking me to do and where we were going, but once we got close, she told me I was spending some time that evening at a homeless shelter to celebrate a bunch of birthdays for the little ones living there. I asked no questions and just smiled. I never thought about doing something like this before, but I was beyond excited. We walked in and I saw so many little bodies running around the main room and all the parents trying to get their kids to calm down. There were four kids so we sectioned each one off to have their own themed party. I was responsible for a little girl named Hadleigh. She turned 2 in December. She loves Minnie Mouse and gold stars. She was so happy the entire evening and my heart was so happy. We played catch and she covered me in gold star stickers (I still have one on the back of my phone case!).

Multiple families lived in this shelter which was a house in the suburbs of Maryland. The kids seemed to all get along like they were part of one big family. I know the parents were all there because they had experienced some difficulties, but the children seemed oblivious to their situation. I was only there for a short time, but they seemed to do what most kids their age did - school, homework, dinner at the table, playing together. Talking to Hadleigh’s mom, I realized that it was a very transitional environment and people move on to their own homes once they are able to do so. But for the kids, they seemed to have a loving and caring environment, a place they called home, even if it was temporary.

I really loved this experience because it opened my eyes to a world that I am not very familiar with. I have been so fortunate in my life to have all the comforts of a stable home and to not have to worry about moving or what my next meal would be or even my birthday parties. I’m really glad I was able to share in this special day with those kids. I know I can do a better job appreciating all that I have. I can’t think of any better way to have spent my 18th birthday.

~Karina, Special Birthday Party Volunteer


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