Imagine what it is like to only receive one or two cards on your birthday!
That’s what nearly happened to two of our Young Ambassadors on their 5th birthday, Arthur and Alfie who have Down Syndrome and Autism. But we quickly acted to ensure they received more… many more, and from all across the country.
These were just a few of mum Emma’s comments:
“From a mum who's streaming tears right now....... OVER JOYED WITH KINDNESS. Happy tears of course! From just the 2 cards on the window that they get year after year from me and brothers/sister, TO THIS amazing kindness from so many kind people xx I thank you so very much xx Feel super happy for the boys and they say THANK YOU XXX We have a lovely family day Thank you thank you thank you thank you xx You will never know how grateful I am to watch my boys open so many cards with joy on their faces! THANK YOU FOR MAKING THEM FEEL LOVED! Xx”
We soon realised this was not just a problem for Arthur and Alfie, but indeed a national problem affecting most children. So, identifying a problem, and a need for someone to help, we have quickly acted to form ‘BIRTHDAY SMILES’.
Here are some of the feedback we received whilst researching the project:
Mum Sarah told us “Awww that's so beautiful. I break my heart every year because my Matty only gets a few cards from immediate family and a couple of my friends. He's never been to, or had a party, not had the immense fun of hearing a group singing and signing happy birthday to him or the excitement of having his own day to open a pile if prezzies from his mates. It’s always broken my heart and made me feel such an inadequate parent, especially as now he is finally getting the idea of what celebrating is and enjoying opening cards and parcels. I think your charity is amazing, just wish we had something same here. Keep up the amazing work xxx”
Mum Karen told us “this is sadly a normal part of the special needs world”
Mum Sarah commented “This happens to my boys too. They get 1 card from me and my husband, I haven't got family to send them cards and gifts. They don't get invited to things. It's so sad.”
Mum Debbie told us “Do you know my children both Autism Spectrum Disorder, youngest has Glovel Development Delay too and other problems, they are lucky if they get three cards :( my 13 ASD son didn't even get a birthday card from his friends or anybody apart from me and his dad and his brothers and sisters. They never get invited to birthday parties etc it's heartbreaking so it's nice to see a charity do this for somebody x”
Mum Sarah told us “My daughter has had this for the last 17 years she is lucky if she gets 3 cards each year. She isn't 18 until April would be very cool to do something like this year for her entrance into adulthood”
Birthday Smiles is a group run by Follow Your Dreams and volunteer parent/carers. We receive nominations of children to receive cards. We post the child’s photograph, their age that month, and a brief description of them in a facebook group. Supporters of the group then send birthday cards for the following month to our head office address and we batch send them to the child in time for their birthday. No personal information is passed out online for example the full date of birth or home address, school details etc. The main costs for this project are administration time, although we plan to utilise as much volunteer support as possible. However, it is essential due to Child Protection the project is managed by a member of staff. There are also guidelines to consider such as data protection, which Is why we cannot completely rely on volunteers. The other cost is postage and packing of the cards, during the early stages, this will probably be an enforced A4 envelope and large letter postage costs, but we envisage this could rise to a small/medium sized parcel and associated postage.How will the project help?
Not only will the children be excited opening cards from people across the country, but we feel parents will be given relief and comfort that others care. Also, we feel we will be helping to raise awareness of disabilities using social media, helping people to understand the problems encountered. Who knows from sending a card, a parent of a mainstream child may think about inviting their child’s school friend with a disability to their party next time. The possibilities are endless.
We truly believe we can lead this project, and make a positive difference to a genuine need.
Follow the project here: www.facebook.com/groups/BirthdaySmiles/