Megan “Megs” Yunn had always assumed every child enjoyed a birthday party. That changed after meeting Beverly, a student at an after-school program for underserved K–8 kids in suburban Pittsburgh. She told Megs during a tutoring session that she’d never had her own party, or even a slice of birthday cake. “Honestly, it was like someone knocked the wind out of me,” says Megs, now 30 and a resident of Irwin, PA. The conversation inspired her to create Beverly’s Birthdays, which provides birthday cheer to homeless children in the greater Pittsburgh area.
Since its founding in 2012, Beverly’s Birthdays has provided celebrations for more than 1,400 kids. The charity works with 43 agencies, including homeless shelters, housing programs and residential treatment facilities, in six Western Pennsylvania counties. Usually, one bash—which includes gifts, cupcakes and entertainment, such as line-dancing lessons—is dedicated to all the children having a birthday that month or season. If an agency cannot accommodate parties, the charity will send a “party-in-a-bag,” which includes cake mix and decorations, instead.
For Megs, Beverly’s Birthdays is about more than just presents. “It’s about a child knowing there’s someone out there who cares for them,” she says. But many kids miss out when dealing with abuse, homelessness or other difficult living situations. “In that hour and a half we’re with them, they’re just kids enjoying themselves,” she says.
As executive director of the charity, Megs spends her days balancing family life with running Beverly’s Birthdays. She and her husband, Mike, a software engineer with IBM, have two children: Wyatt, 2, and Lincoln, 1. Both have accompanied their mom to many parties, and although the kids are too young to do anything more than eat cake and have fun, Megs looks forward to the day they can play a bigger role. “I believe it’s really crucial to teach children the importance of having a giving spirit,” she says.
At the shelter Womanspace East, Inc., eight kids and a few moms recently gathered to celebrate the month’s birthdays with a Frozen-themed party. Excited children enjoyed a game of Pin the Carrot on Olaf and erupted into “Let It Go” before serenading the feted girls with “Happy Birthday.”
Tiarra McClure, 26, smiles as her boys—Trent, 7, and Aidyn, 5—play games with the group. Each son has been thrown two parties while living in transitional housing, and Tiarra’s toddler daughter, Olivia, celebrated her second birthday with Beverly’s. Tiarra credits the organization with helping her kids feel special on their big day. At Trent’s second party, she remembers, “he actually cried—not because he was sad, but because he said it was the best birthday ever.”
To learn more about Beverly’s Birthdays or donate, visit beverlysbirthdays.org.
Photo by Dylan Priest