As my friends and peers struggled to figure out how they were going to give back to the community and earn their National Honor Society hours during a pandemic, I never had to think twice. Immediately, I knew I wanted to work with GiGi’s Playhouse. I sent Judy a message asking what she thought would be the best way to design my project, and we came to the conclusion that our teen participants needed a way to celebrate. That’s when “Birthday in a Bag” was born.
I got to work on gathering birthday supplies in the form of cake mixes, frosting, decorations, candles, anything to make a birthday special. Judy sent me the list of birthdays for the month and off my mom and I went, traveling around the state for 3 hours to reach our teen participants with birthdays in December. The smiles seen on faces who may have been unable to have a celebration due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, now being able to make their day at home special was amazing. The everlasting smiles have always been my favorite part of working with GiGi’s, so contributing to that myself was the best feeling.
Something that started as a way to earn my required hours, has become a team effort looked forward to monthly. When I started my project, it was just my mom and me, but this year I brought aboard a team of wonderful friends looking for an enjoyable way to earn hours. My team of 5 has been a wonderful addition to the process and our delivery days are loads of fun. Our Youth Board Volunteer Coordinator and member of the Birthday Bag team, Anna Devoto said, “Being part of the Youth Board, I love this project because it gives me an opportunity to bring others into the amazing GiGi’s community and to see the bright smiles on participants’ faces when they hold their birthday bags. There’s truly nothing like it!”
This project has also brought many new volunteers into the GiGi’s community. Team member Emma Talbott said, “I wanted to participate in the project to be able to put a smile on someone’s face by recognizing a special day in their life. I enjoy honoring someone’s birthday and doing something for them even if it is little.” For many of my friends, this project is their first interaction with the wonderful organization that is GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis, but definitely not their last.
Written by: Katie Lewis, GiGi’s Youth Board President