NASHVILLE, TN — A birthday is a holiday to the person celebrating it. But many don’t get to celebrate theirs—people suffering an exhaustive list of situations—making what should be a joyous occasion painful.
A community servicedriven nonprofit, The Birthday Giving Program, formed in May 2017 to provide birthday celebrations “to children, adults, senior citizens and veterans affected by poverty, addiction, abuse, homelessness, violence, physical/mental challenges, old age, and loneliness,” said founder Sonika Menon.
Menon’s nonprofit began in Plainfield, Ill., where it now partners with 26 organizations across the state; it also has chapters in California, Florida and Tennessee.
The program’s Tennessee chapter representative is Marie Coz, a registered nurse of 25 years who’s passionate about birthdays and described herself as a “birthday monster.”
“I really believe it’s important to honor and celebrate the day,” said Coz, adding that she loves birthdays so much she makes her family celebrate birthday months rather than just the day.
Coz saw Menon on CNN’s “Young Wonders” segment and was inspired to email her and ask to extend a chapter of the organization to Nashville. Coz and volunteers Molly Katz, Isabella King and Christa Schoembrodt work with Nashville Rescue Mission, Crossroads Campus and Monroe Harding Foster Care to bring birthdays and smiles to people who need it. The program also serves veterans through Operation Stand Down.
“I am so grateful for all of the hard work Marie and her volunteers have put in to celebrating those in need,” said Menon.
The program has raised “nearly $10,000 through its GoFundMe page, PayPal account and private donors, and have delivered over 1,000 birthday bags, 255 welcome boxes (which contain a stuffed animal, snack, and children’s story and were designed to provide comfort to children forced to find accommodations in homeless shelters), about 150 homemade birthday cakes, and about 50 store bought cakes,” Menon said.
For more information about the organization, visit www.birthdaygivingprogram.club/.