A birthday should be a very special and happy occasion for every child, and the Box of Balloons organization is striving to see that no child is denied this this joyful experience due to their unfortunate circumstances.
Box of Balloons is a national non-profit volunteer organization which works to provide birthday-party boxes for needy children. A Jackson-based chapter has formed and Chapter Leader Jennilyn Prater is currently working to secure local volunteers and support.
"We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization on a mission to make each birthday happy and every child celebrated," Prater told The Telegram. "We give birthday parties to children in need. Unfortunately, not every child is celebrated on their birthday due to financial burdens on their caregivers. At Box of Balloons, we want to help lift that burden and provide the party for the caregiver, so that, in the eyes of the child, it has been provided by their loved one."
Box of Balloons is a national organization, but is still spreading its wings. The national goal is to attain more than 7,500 community volunteers within 75 local chapters to gain the ability to provide celebrations for 3,750 children each year. The Jackson chapter is only the second one in Ohio, but Prater expects many local chapters to be formed in the near future and notes that contacts in Vinton County have expressed interest in starting a chapter there.
"We see communities coming together to provide happiness and hope to families from the East Coast to the West, North and South and beyond. In just over a year, we have put roots in five states, servicing a total of 10 cities with local chapters."
She was introduced to Box of Balloons through social media and became inspired to start a local chapter.
"It was very heartwarming to see communities coming together to help children in need," Prater commented. "I love living in a small town that comes together to help others. I knew immediately that Jackson would be perfect for this type of organization. The overwhelming response I received from our first two box requests has proved how wonderful our community truly is."
So how does Box of Balloons work?
Requests for birthday boxes are directed to local chapters. A list of needed supplies will be sent out to local volunteers and the volunteers will sign up for the items they wish to donate. Local chapter members will receive the supplies and fill the box.
An example of supplies for each box would be a gift, decorations, tableware, party favors, cupcakes and a party game. Each box requires specific items or about $100 to fill. Once the box is complete, Prater will hand-deliver the birthday box to the requesting organization. A representative of that organization would then deliver the birthday box to the child's caregiver.
"We would not be able to fill the boxes without the support of our wonderful volunteers," Prater noted. "It's truly an amazing opportunity to serve."
Local chapters work with various organizations to make connections with the children who are to be served, including homeless shelters, recovery centers, Early Head Start, elementary schools and churches.
To get involved with Box of Balloons, community members may log onto boxofballoons.org and sign up by filling out the volunteer application. When a box request is received, local volunteers are notified by email and Facebook regarding the needed supplies.
Prater will be hosting two local events to further introduce Box of Balloons to the Jackson area community. A "Meet and Greet" event for the Jackson chapter is set for this Friday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m. at the Christ United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall on Portsmouth Street in Jackson. This event will allow volunteers to meet and connect with other volunteers.
The second event, which is being billed as "Kids Helping Kids," is set for Thursday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m., also at the Christ Methodist Church Fellowship Hall. Prater says this event will be "a great opportunity to help get our children interested in community-service projects."
More information on Box of Balloons can be found on its main webpage at boxofballoons.org or on the Box of Balloons Jackson, Ohio Facebook page at BoxBalloonsJacksonOH. The local email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.