April 7, 2020

This nonprofit delivers birthday party kits so kids can celebrate while social distancing

The coronavirus outbreak won't stop Celebrate RVA from giving kids the hope and joy they deserve.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Celebrate RVA founder Julia Warren decided to get creative with her birthday parties. The nonprofit now assembles birthdays in a bag and delivers them safely to kids at home.

Editor’s note: We need the support of our community even more during a crisis. Tell us what you and your neighbors are doing to support one another. We will share these stories of hope on The Renewal Project and in our newsletter, Renewal 365. Drop me a line at margaret@therenewalproject.com.

As a volunteer in high school, Julia Warren noticed something surprising about the kids she mentored, something that’s stuck with her to this day. Many of the kids in the Richmond, Virginia, school where she tutored were experiencing hardships or homelessness. “It became so apparent to me that [some] kids didn’t know when their birthday was,” she said. It was her aha moment.

Warren was determined to make a difference in her students’ lives, so she founded Celebrate RVA—RVA being shorthand for her hometown—when she was just 16. Her goal was to give these kids an opportunity to blow out their own birthday candles for the first time. “These moments of joy and love can transform a child,” she told us. “It gives them an opportunity to just be children.”

Since 2013, Warren, now 24, and a team of volunteers have been throwing birthday parties for kids wherever they are—in their homes, in a shelter, or at the pediatric oncology ward.

Last month, the nonprofit was gearing up to host the grand opening of their “Celebrate Space,” their new party headquarters, when they made the decision to cancel the event and all upcoming gatherings due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But she didn’t want to cancel the parties altogether, especially during this stressful time when kids, and their families, could use a jolt of joy. So, Warren decided to package up the parties and send them directly to the birthday boys and girls.

Once a week, Warren and her only staff member assemble these birthday bags and deliver them to families’ doorsteps. Each delivery comes with a birthday chair cover, confetti, a banner, candles, cake mix, icing, and a hat decorating kit—everything they need for a party in their home. They also get a book and a birthday card.

In lieu of parties in their "Celebrate Space," Celebrate RVA delivers birthday party kits so families can celebrate while social distancing.

Warren says her nonprofit serves any “kid” ages 1 to 21, though most of their parties tend to be for children in elementary or early middle school. For one little girl, who is immunocompromised, the coronavirus outbreak threatened to cancel her party. Her mom, who is unable to work, called Celebrate RVA, and was able to give her daughter a 7th birthday to remember.

“This time is really scary for a lot of our kids. They’re seeing really hard stuff and being exposed to a lot of hardship,” Warren told us. “It was important for us to continue taking joy out in the community realizing that it looks different. Under the circumstances, delivering joy is the best way to bring a smile to these kiddos.”

Donate to Celebrate RVA or purchase an item from their Amazon wish list.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.