Birthdays are important milestones for youth, but not every family can afford a celebration. With this in mind, local 4-H Club youth gathered birthday supplies and created more than 200 "birthday bags," which were donated to community families in need.
"The local effort was part of the 4-H National Day of Service this spring," said Deanna Roby, 4-H Youth Development Educator for University of Illinois Extension. "Nineteen DuPage, Kane and Kendall County 4-H Clubs each partnered with a charitable organization in the area, collected the birthday kit items and delivered the completed kits."
Kits included birthday gift bags filled with a cake mix, frosting, birthday candles, a 4-H stuffed bear, and even some party supplies or birthday cards.
"Every child would like a cake on their birthday," said DuPage County 4-H leader Sandy Murray when she told Opportunity Getters 4-H Club members about the project this spring. "We would be providing that for children who otherwise might not get one."
In all, 4-H'ers delivered 215 birthday bag kits to 18 service organizations in the west suburbs area.
Locations included: Addison Switchboard, Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry, Elburn Food Pantry, Elgin Community Crisis Center, Helmar Food Pantry in Newark, Hesed House in Aurora, Elmhurst Walk-In Ministries, Loaves & Fishes in Naperville, Old Second Bank of Elburn, People's Resource Center in Wheaton, Ronald McDonald House Charities in Oak Brook, Salvation Army Food Pantry of Aurora, Salvation Army of St. Charles, Sharing Connections in Downers Grove, St. Mary's of West Chicago, The Store at Harvest Chapel in Sandwich, West Chicago Food Pantry, and York Township Pantry.
"4-H members learned how easily birthday celebrations may be eliminated when families do not have the means to have extra treats or celebrations," said Tina Heidrich, Kendall County 4-H leader with Barn and Beyond 4-H Club. "They also are reminded of how a simple act of kindness and working together can create a positive difference in many lives, and often the lives of children just like themselves."
Giving back is an important part of the 4-H experience.
"One of the four Hs in 4-H stands for 'hands to larger service,'" said Roby. "4-H members are encouraged to develop and practice skills to be helpful to others."
Throughout each year, 4-H members participate in club and county service projects that benefit their communities, country and world.
"By participating in community service activities, 4-H members gain a sense of pride, accomplishment, empathy, tolerance, understanding and compassion," said Heidrich. "This project was a winning opportunity for everyone -- for the 4-H clubs to work together as a team for a positive outcome, for the food pantries that now have an exciting surprise to make available to their guests, and for the recipients who will be celebrating, enjoying and having fun on a truly special day."
Participating 4-H clubs included:
• From DuPage County -- Darien Dragons, Fischer Farms, High Hopes, Ku-Du's, Opportunity Getters, Roselle Go Gettem, Super Clovers, Trinity Trailblazers, Whirlybirds, and Winfield Bluebirds;
• From Kane County -- Burlington Ag, The Challengers, The Helping Hearts Cloverbuds, Lincoln Highway, Mighty Titans and Trailblazers; and
• From Kendall County -- Barn and Beyond; Boots, Blue Jeans and Bows; and Seward Kids and Critters.
4-H Youth Development programs provide opportunities for youth to feel a sense of belonging, develop independence, practice generosity, and experience mastery. For more information on the 4-H program in your county, visit go.illinois.edu/extensiondkk.