Beverly's Birthdays provides 'cheer kits' to help students celebrate
Mishelle Rayburg and other teachers at Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship now have some help making sure kids in their classrooms are treated to a proper celebration on their birthdays.
“I used to go out myself and buy birthday crowns for all of my students to try and make the day as special as possible,” Rayberg said.
Then the Pittsburgh nonprofit Beverly's Birthdays joined the party by starting its Classroom Cheer program three years ago. Penn Hills charter is one of the schools in the Pittsburgh area that receives “cheer kits” from the group. The kits contain things to make students — many from poor families that can't afford a celebration at home — feel special at school on their birthdays.
Beverly's Birthdays was started in 2011 by Megs Yunn with the goal of raising money to help homeless kids in the Pittsburgh region celebrate their birthdays. Classroom Cheer was part of the program's growth, co-director Josh Whiteside said.
The kits are delivered to more schools and include more now, he said. Crowns, capes, pencils, notebooks, badges and bracelets fill the kits, all intended to draw attention to the student on their birthday.
“The program targets fifth grade and under, where it's still cool to do things like this,” Whiteside said. “It's my dream that every single teacher, fifth grade and under, will have one of these kits one day.”
The organization last year distributed 500 cheer kits, each kit serving 30 students. A $10,000 grant from Target bolstered the program.
“We would love to grow the partnership with Target not only from a financial standpoint, but with supplies from them as well,” Whiteside said.
The Education Partnership — a Pittsburgh nonprofit providing students with supplies — helped Beverly's Birthdays identify which schools had the most in-need, low-income students for the Classroom Cheer program.
“The program is a tool in these districts to be able to recognize these young children's birthdays where otherwise that may not be possible,” Whiteside said. “This creates a level playing field where every student is getting recognized in the same way.”
Rayburg isn't the only one who welcomes the help.
“I think financially it makes the parents feel better,” Rayburg said. “There was one little girl that said she didn't get anything for her birthday because her mom couldn't afford it. Watching her little smile light up at school here was awesome.”
Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.