In my life, I have been blessed that my parents have always been on my side, no matter what. When I was growing up, they went out of their way to make my siblings and me feel special, especially on our birthdays. While many parents want to acknowledge a birthday milestone for their children, it is sometimes extremely difficult to do, especially when families face issues of poverty, distress, and hunger.
Lisa Harris, Colorado Academy parent of Davinson and Mara (Grade 6), Olivia (Grade 9), Rachel ’19, and Zach ’17, was thinking about this dilemma when she approached me with an idea almost one year ago. As a mother of nine, she knows firsthand how important it is for kids to feel special, especially on their birthdays, and she wanted our Horizons students to experience that sense of belonging and excitement on their special day.
So when Lisa asked me if Horizons students would like to have a “birthday box” sponsored by the Harris Law Firm to celebrate their birthdays with gifts, decorations, and a cake, I instantly thought that it was an incredibly generous offer and that our students and families would be very receptive and grateful. Initially, we were only going to work with a handful of students each month. Ultimately, we decided we could only do this if all 150 of our students got birthday boxes—a huge undertaking!
How birthday boxes work
We hired Jessica Nuñez, who is a teacher at Knapp Elementary and also a Horizons alumna and teacher, to be the liaison between the Harris Law Firm and the families. Now, almost a year in, we have the process down:
- Horizons families fill out a survey prior to the birthday month.
- The surveys are sent to the law firm, and Lisa compiles a list and sends it out to her staff volunteers.
- Harris Law Firm underwrites the cost of each box, and firm volunteers—more than 20 a month sometimes—purchase the items.
- Lisa and Jessica meet so that Jessica can distribute the boxes to the lucky birthday recipients!
What is amazing is that this entire project has been mutually beneficial. Naturally the students and their families love it, but the Harris Law Firm attorneys and staff also get a lot out of the experience. I visited the Harris Law Firm a few weeks ago to talk to Lisa and two employees of the firm, Jennifer Irwin and Roselyn Klinzman-Bogs, about their experiences volunteering for the birthday box project. Both Roselynn and Jennifer said that they love shopping for younger students, and that it is especially nice to give something to someone who might not otherwise receive that gift. This culture of giving back, what they call “We Care,” lies at the heart of the law firm. Horizons is so fortunate to be part of this exciting collaboration.
Our next steps will be to have Harris Law Firm staff and attorneys meet with Horizons students! We are planning an activity while we are in session this summer, so that members of the firm can see Horizons in action, and the students can get to meet these amazing volunteers.
It takes visionaries like Lisa to create opportunities that bond our communities together. It is this type of initiative that makes a huge impact on our Horizons families and brings joy, delight, and purpose to our students and their families.