Partner Spotlight: Happy 12th Birthday to Beverly’s Birthdays!

(March 28, 2024)

In a recent meeting, we started with a question – What was a birthday or other celebration that was really special? One person talked about her birthday being just a couple of weeks away from her sister’s birthday so every single year they have a joint birthday party. Someone else shared that her father, who was a car salesman, was able to get a convertible for the day so that she could have the best 10th birthday. I was thinking about all of the wonderful birthday parties I have had over the years, and for some strange reason, my Burger King birthday party was one of my favorites.

As we shared in this discussion, I could not help but to think of some of my former clients and many other children who may not have fond memories of birthday celebrations. When I worked as a foster care caseworker with a caseload of about 30 youth, I made sure I bought each one a small gift so that I knew that they would at least get one present. When I became a child advocate and had 120-165 youth on my case list, this was not as easy to maintain. I worked hard to at least call each child on their birthday and bought gifts for those that I knew would likely not be receiving any other gifts. I remember wishing there was a way to ensure every child could be celebrated.

My wish came true in 2012 when Megs Yunn started the nonprofit Beverly’s Birthdays. Megs was inspired to start this organization after encountering a young girl named Beverly, who she was helping at an after school program. Beverly had to use the word accustomed in a sentence but did not know the meaning of it. Megs asked Beverly, “At birthday parties, people are accustomed to eating what?” Beverly responded that she had never had a birthday party of her own or even a slice of her own birthday cake. From this interaction, Beverly’s Birthdays was born. They began providing meaningful birthday celebrations for children experiencing homelessness and families in need. The children that I worked with that were involved in the child welfare system could now be guaranteed some type of celebration. They began by hosting group birthday celebrations at agency partners’ facilities for all children who have a birthday during that month. For example, if a youth was residing in a group home, there would be a birthday celebration at the group home for that youth and any other youth who had a birthday around the same time. Caseworkers and other individuals could also request a “Beverly’s Birthdays Cheer Box” with a customized gift for youth on their caseloads. Over 51,000 boxes have been distributed to children and families.

In February 2024, Beverly’s Birthdays turned twelve years old. In all of those years, Beverly’s Birthdays has expanded their services beyond birthday celebrations. They now offer free community baby showers for parents who are expecting or who have recently had a baby. They celebrate with cake, of course, but there are also games, resources, and baby care items. Some of the young people that I have worked with were happy to get books in the diaper bags that they were given. Most importantly, this gives the families a time to connect with others, both fellow parents and the Beverly’s Birthdays staff. Those connections are the most valuable gifts that many parents take with them. Staff have told me that parents will share pictures or updates with them, but will also ask for resources. When people are in need they are not likely to ask someone for help if they do not have a connection with them. A perfect example is a mother who was talking to someone in her community about her desire to learn more about breastfeeding. She was encouraged to go to a community shower and ask for a particular staff member when she gets there. When she met the staff member at the shower, she was able to receive the direct referral to a lactation consultant.

Beverly’s Milestones Program is near and dear to my heart. The program provides an opportunity to celebrate youth in foster care with special meaningful milestones in their lives. Think of all of the milestones you celebrate within your own family: First day of kindergarten or high school, graduating, first job, honor roll, etc. When children are in foster care, they are often filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and hopelessness. Every accomplishment they make, big or small, should be acknowledged. This program allows them to be celebrated in a special way.

Beverly’s Birthdays has grown beyond the celebrations. They have expanded their services even more to include all stages of life. Another area where Allies for Children has been able to partner with is the Greater Pittsburgh Infant Formula Bank, managed by Beverly’s Birthdays. The formula bank is a bridge-based resource where families can receive free formula during a crisis. This is typically while they wait on longer term solutions like WIC services or find their specialty infant formula in stock. They are the only formula bank in the region.

The work is now divided into three divisions – Birthdays, Babies, and Basic Care. To eliminate confusion about what Beverly’s Birthdays does, their name will soon be Beverly’s PGH. Please visit their website for more information about what services each division can provide.

Allies for Children is proud to partner with Beverly’s Birthdays and is looking forward to seeing all of the many ways they are able to support children and families. They have made it their mission to help meet the essential needs of the families they serve through the vehicle of celebration, recognition, and support.

Heather Wilkes, Allies for Children Policy Director