Imagine a child not receiving a cake or present on their birthday. This is often the experience for children entering OhioGuidestone’s Residential Treatment Center. “That shouldn’t happen,” said Katie Eichenauer, Executive Director of Believe in Dreams. “They need and deserve to have the exact same experience as any other kid.” With help from Believe in Dreams and Baldwin Wallace University (BW), children at OhioGuidestone’s Residential Treatment Center celebrate their birthdays as they should—with cake and presents.
When volunteering with OhioGuidestone in 2011, Therese O’Donnell, OhioGuidestone Board Member, saw the need for a birthday program, so she created Birthday Buddies. In the early stages of the program, Therese would buy gifts and her mother would make a cake for Therese to deliver to the birthday child. “The most rewarding part has always been delivering the gifts,” said Therese. “I had a young boy tell me, ‘This is the first birthday gift I’ve gotten in a really long time.’” In 2016, Believe in Dreams began funding the program, allowing BW to bake the cakes. “This funding was such a blessing, as it was getting difficult for my mom to make all those cakes,” said Therese. “Baldwin Wallace’s cakes are so professional and beautiful!”
To ensure no birthday is missed, generic birthday cakes are kept on hand. “If a child came through intake last night, it’s a little late to say, ‘I need one today,’” said Richard Lynch, OhioGuidestone Cottage Liaison. “This way, they still get something.”
The staff takes great care to make each child feel celebrated on their birthday. “It makes me feel good that they feel special,” said Constance Roberts, OhioGuidestone Social Services Assistant. “I want them to know they’re important because a lot of these kids don’t feel special.” Constance also mails gifts to the children who exit the facility before their birthday.
“Letting them know that they’re valued, that they’re believed in, that their community wants them here and that we’re glad they were born,” said Katie, “We hope they feel that.”
Birthday Buddies is special to OhioGuidestone, as Therese sees with each delivery, “I can remember a young boy telling me he would be leaving OhioGuidestone. He asked me, ‘Can I have a birthday gift early? I’m afraid where I’m going they might not know it’s my birthday.’” This small gesture of love and kindness shows these children that their community supports them and is willing to help them on their life journeys.