By Jeffrey Lowell, Long Island
I love birthday parties. I have had twelve in my life and I will soon celebrate my 13th. I can’t imagine being unable to celebrate the day I was born, but many homeless kids aren’t so lucky to have the opportunity to celebrate something as simple as their birthdays each year.
That’s why, for my mitzvah project I chose to participate in the Birthday Wishes organization.
Birthday Wishes is a non-profit that helps underprivileged, homeless children have the birthday party of a lifetime by bringing the excitement of a party to them in the shelters where they are living.
Birthday Wishes was founded in 2002 by three friends who wanted to help homeless children build self-esteem. While volunteering in several homeless shelters, they noticed that children’s birthdays would often be overlooked. Parents there were embarrassed that they didn’t have enough money to buy a cake or presents so they didn’t even tell their children that they had a birthday. The three women thought this was unacceptable and started throwing birthday parties at the shelters for all the children. The first parties were held at the Second Step shelter in Newton, MA. Today, the volunteer organization serves more than 165 homeless shelters and thousands of homeless children in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and on Long Island.
Through this group I will be able to make several kids’ dreams come true and help them feel special on their special day by bringing party favors and gifts (all donated) for them. I have been collecting gifts, games and party favors from my friends and family. I’ve already collected some board games, super hero action figures, stuffed animals, and my favorite – Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots! I will be getting many more the weekend of my Bar Mitzvah and I will be buying more. I am truly excited to present the children with these gifts they would never have had the chance to receive otherwise.
I like that I will be able to be involved firsthand and I can’t wait to see the smiles on their faces when they see what we have planned for them. I may even bake them a cake!
Choosing this mitzvah project makes me think how fortunate I am to not only have a home and everyday luxuries, but to be able to celebrate my birthday each year and to also have a Bar Mitzvah. I never even thought about not having a party or even a cake and it makes me sad to realize not everyone is as lucky as I am.
Next month, I become a Bar Mitzvah. It is very important for me to make smart decisions and feel good about myself. My feelings of pride and accomplishment in learning to think about others and their life challenges have made me a more compassionate person. This mitzvah project has really changed my outlook on the world. I will no longer take things for granted. These kids have a tough life that hopefully I will never have to experience personally. I am glad I’m able to help make them feel special for at least one day. And I hope it will be a day they will remember forever. I can’t wait to spread the birthday cheer! I know it will be a humbling and rewarding experience.
Jeffrey Lowell is an 8th grader at Merrick Avenue Middle School on Long Island. Mazel Tov on your upcoming Bar Mitzvah!