All children deserve to feel special on their birthdays, and a local nonprofit is working hard to support foster children and less-fortunate families across Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. Celebrate Birthdays is on a mission to bring the party to children who otherwise may not be able to afford even a present.
Two local nurses, Belinda Leto and her best friend, Celina Saunders, started the organization only eight months ago stemming from an angel tree at their church, but their operation has exploded due to the generosity of the community and the smiles from children and families it has impacted.
Leto gushed, “It truly takes a village to do something like this, and when you realize people believe in your vision, it can happen.”
Celebrate Birthdays brings the birthday magic. In addition to a cake and fun party, each child will receive an age-appropriate present and a birthday bag, which has a book in it to promote literacy
Leto knows there is nothing like seeing a child happy in person, but she shared, “A little girl cried over getting a doll that blinked and opened its eyes. It couldn’t be more than $11.99. We reach them on more than a birthday. It’s a catalyst to impact their lives. We want to be able to put children’s Bibles in every bag. Having His word in their bags is so important in these children’s lives. We try and reach them through a birthday and let them know they are special, they are loved. Times may be tough, but this is your day. You matter.”
Celebrate Birthdays is partnered locally with a variety of organizations, such as the Joshua House Foster Home in Lutz, New Life Village and Boys & Girls Clubs Organizations across the county where it goes on-site to throw monthly birthday parties.
“We are celebrating over 50 children’s birthdays a month,” Leto explained. Local businesses like Orange Theory Fitness have graciously offered to collect new toys and party supplies, which are always in need. In order to expand further to meet the growing demand, it is seeking business/community partners and volunteers to help collect supplies, identify children in need and host parties.
Leto added, “We would love to partner with individuals, businesses and churches. God has moved through this whole thing. We were two regular chicks doing a project, and it’s become so much more.”
It also has about sixteen regular volunteers as well as students from Tampa Catholic High School, but it is always looking for more happy helpers, and it can offer community service hours for students.