Port Students Give The Gift Of Birthdays

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The Celebrate U Long Island chapter held their first meeting with volunteers where they gathered supplies for the party.

After volunteering to help with a couple of Celebrate U parties in New York City, Sylvia Ades and Eli Ross decided to open a chapter closer to home. Celebrate U, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to spreading happiness by throwing birthday parties for underprivileged children living in under-served communities and homeless shelters. The two Schreiber sophomores are set to host their very first party for children on May 22 at the Saratoga Family Inn in Jamaica, Queens, one of the largest shelters for families with children which serves about 25

Top row from left to right: Eli Ross, Julia Semilof, Valarie Mundschien, Rachel Bernstein and Collin Dela. Bottom row left to right: Leah Doubert, Sylvia Ades, Karlee Gulkis and Hayley Korn.

5 families on any given day.

“From my perspective, I find it very interesting,” said Ades. “It’s different to see what it’s like for them. It’s a great thing and that’s why I wanted to get involved. I tutor at different places and I spend time with them, but don’t see what’s going on outside of tutoring. It’s a great opportunity to give them a bit more joy than usual.”

“It makes me feel like I’m doing a great thing because honestly being a kid in the way they live makes me pretty sad,” added Ross. “It feels good to give back and throw them something they may never have.”

Top row from left to right: Eli Ross, Julia Semilof, Valarie Mundschien, Rachel Bernstein and Collin Dela. Bottom row left to right: Leah Doubert, Sylvia Ades, Karlee Gulkis and Hayley Korn.

Because most Celebrate U parties have a theme and because the date is shortly after Mother’s Day, Ades and Ross felt that the May 22 party should have a springtime theme with a Mother’s Day craft. The two, along with a group of Schreiber volunteers, will bring Polaroid cameras to the event, take pictures of each child and allow the children to put the photos in frames they will decorate at the party. Ades and Ross thought this would give the kids an opportunity to create a Mother’s Day gift for their mothers. The two are also adding a “Happy Birthday” sign that all kids will be able to sign. At the party, the kids will enjoy the arts and craft project, a special birthday song and a cake. Donations of party supplies and goodie bags were given by Confetti and Friends and @okaybutfirstcake.

“At the last party we volunteered at, I noticed kids enjoyed coloring and expressing themselves that way,” said Ades. “We help them decorate and throughout the party, we are able to get to know the kids. The kids share their stories with us and we kind of form a bond with them by the end of the party.”

Celebrate U parties usually combine four months of birthdays into the one party, so the May 22 party will celebrate children from pre-k to third grade who have birthdays from May to August. Ades and Ross hope to have a party every season to celebrate all birthday months. They also hope to later expand to other shelters on Long Island to host more parties for more kids.

“There are a lot of homeless shelters on Long Island and they wanted to expand their company, so we figured we live out here and we can bring what we have to [the Long Island shelters],” said Ades. “While there are inner city homeless, there are some homeless out here who need these parties just as much.”

Celebrate U parties are run by teen volunteers, allowing for a special connection between them and the children they serve. The parties also run in collaboration with social service agencies and schools. The organization believes that by showing children that their community truly cares about them by throwing them these parties can raise self-esteem, provide hope for a brighter future and empower children. Celebrate U was co-founded by Chase Kauder when she was 13 in 2013 and has served more than 1,000 children and has more than 250 volunteers.

Ades and Ross are currently looking for volunteers for the upcoming party and future parties. If interested, and a ninth grader or older, email Ades at scades2002@gmail.com. To donate to the organization, visit www.CelebrateU.org or www.gofundme.com/celebrateuli. For more information about the Long Island chapter of Celebrate U, visit their instagram page @celebrateu_pw.

What did you think of this article? Share your thoughts with me by email at cclaus@antonmediagroup.com.

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