A couple weeks ago, Joslyn told me about Paige Chenault, an incredible woman who is very passionate about birthdays and homeless children. She told me about The Birthday Party Project. I was gearing up to write an article about it when I opened this morning’s Dallas Morning News and found a majority of a page dedicated to The Birthday Party Project. Since that article is behind a paywall, and because I think everybody needs to know about this wonderful organization, I’m posting my version here. Read it, and then contact Chenault and host a party:
There are three things event planner Paige Chenault believes strongly in: family, birthday parties, and the power of a moment. A couple years ago, while touring the Dallas LIFE homeless shelter, Chenault found a way to combine her three passions. She came to a room that housed a dad, a little girl, and two little boys. She took a peek inside the family’s closet and saw just one little dress hanging up. “It was the most beautiful Easter dress,” Chenault says as tears well up in her crystal blue eyes. “It was the only dress that this little girl had. That’s probably exactly where I went ‘I’m ready to rock. Let’s do this.’” And by “this,” she means The Birthday Party Project.
Every third Thursday, Chenault, her husband Colin, and about 20 volunteers go to a homeless shelter and throw a party for the kids who have birthdays that month. Each birthday kid gets a hat, badge, present, and individual cake with a candle. The other kids get a piece of sheet cake and participate in the activities, which may include a water-gun fight, dance party, or lemonade stand. Each party costs about $150 plus the $30 present per birthday kid. Chenault can do as much or as little planning as the funding group would like. When DJ Lucy Wrubel heard about The Birthday Party Project, she decided that she must become friends with Chenault, and that she must host a party. In June, that’s exactly what she did.
Though it was dinnertime, the kids were distracted by what was going on in the courtyard, a 12-foot-by-30-foot area with bright green walls. After the dishes were cleared, Wrubel, sporting purple suede wedges and blond streaks, came in with her daughter and Chenault, who opted to wear Toms, and said the decorations were finished, and the celebration could begin.
As the kids followed them into the 90-degree heat, they were given Kanye West-inspired sunglasses. One little girl took a pair of blue glasses that matched her butterfly t-shirt. She then ran under the tunnel made of hands from the likes of design/event guru Todd Fiscus, Wrubel, and Chenault. As she exited the tunnel, the little girl’s eyes were shining and her smile lit up her face. She didn’t care that she’d just run past some of Dallas’ most stylish socialites. She didn’t care that it was June 21, Wrubel’s actual birthday. All she cared about was that she was getting to celebrate, eat cake, and open a present. On that night, the little girl and her friends weren’t just homeless kids living at the Annette G. Strauss Family Gateway Center. They were children celebrating birthdays.
Wrubel wanted her curly-haired, 6-year-old daughter, Stella, to get the full experience. They picked a rock ‘n’ roll theme. Wrubel’s assistant Rachel Barbaro, of Sugar Ray’s Bake Shop, made all the cakes. They enlisted the help of Fiscus, who brought two crates full of wigs, sunglasses, and anything else a kid might need to look fabulous for a photo booth set up by Perez Photography. There was a tattoo station, blow-up guitars, and giveaways. Men with skinny jeans and shiny loafers played basketball; Fiscus adjusted neon wigs; and Wrubel watched as her daughter explained to one birthday boy that both the soccer ball and football were for him. “That’s got to be for someone else,” the boy said of the soccer ball. “No, it’s for you,” Stella assured him.
As the evening wrapped up, the group stood in the darkened parking lot and analyzed the past two hours. They discussed how the kids didn’t know it was tradition to blow candles out at the end of the birthday song, and Chenault told them about the 12-year-old who got his first birthday cake through The Birthday Party Project. That’s when the groupÂ realized that it didn’t matter if the kids were homeless or part of Dallas’ most stylish set, they were all one: celebrating birthdays and eating cake.
For Wrubel, Stella, and their friends, it was a powerful moment.