Pantry gains 106 'birthday bags' from woman's donation
Birthdays will be a success this year for 106 kids whose families get food from Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville after one woman's drive for celebration supplies exceeded her goal.
For her 33rd birthday, Naperville resident Kate Schultz aimed to collect 100 bags full of party fixings in an effort she called Let Them Eat Cake, so she could provide others the kind of enjoyable birthday moments she remembers as a kid.
Schultz beamed as she and her husband, Carl, loaded bags of themed party kits onto racks at Loaves & Fishes' warehouse Wednesday morning. Schultz called completing the donation drive the highlight of her own birthday celebration.
"This is really the most special thing," Schultz said. "This is fun."
The "birthday bags" she donated contain decorations, party favors, invitations and thank-yous, balloons, streamers, plastic cutlery and paper plates, cake mix and frosting. A list with each bag details what's inside and the theme, be it a movie like "Frozen," "Minions" or "Inside Out," a character like Minnie Mouse or Doc McStuffins or a design such as flowers or sports.
"I think we got one of almost every kind at Party City," said Schultz, who works as a communications specialist for the city of Naperville. "A lot of people were very generous in donating."
Schultz collected roughly $1,500 in donations that she put toward buying birthday supplies.
Friends, family and community members also gave her cake mixes, frosting and completed bags of their own, resulting in a total donation she valued at $2,500.
At Loaves & Fishes, families shopping before a child's birthday can pick up a bag of goodies to throw a fully stocked party.
"You just won't believe when a child is handed a bag the smile on their face," said Diane Ramonas, donor relations officer.
Cary Gilkey, Loaves & Fishes' vice president of operations, said the organization gives away between 50 and 120 bags of birthday materials a month, so Schultz's donated kits are soon to become birthday memories.
It costs roughly $30 to buy the paper supplies, party favors, decorations and cake for a child's birthday, which can be too much for families experiencing tough financial times.
"Even with the Dollar Store kits, it adds up," Schultz said. "Food on the table or a birthday party -- I know these are the choices they're probably having to make."
Schultz started the Let Them Eat Cake project last year as an expansion of earlier efforts to collect food for the pantry beginning with her 30th birthday.
In memory of her mother, who died about eight years ago from cancer, Schultz said she's aiming to help others recreate the birthday joy she experienced.
As part of growing up, birthdays truly can be the highlight of the year, Schultz said.
"They lose a little bit of the appeal as you get older, but for kids, they're so exciting," she said.
She plans to continue the drive again next year.