By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
With plans to celebrate birthdays of 1,600 Yukon fourth and fifth graders, the Beautiful Day Foundation is enlisting volunteers and donors to support its uplifting cause.
The Beautiful Day Foundation is coming to Yukon Public Schools for the 2019-20 school year, with its first birthday parties later this month at Lakeview and Independence elementary schools.
“We are celebrating 1,600 kids’ birthdays this year,” said Sarah (Kroutil) Hays, Yukon team leader for the Beautiful Day Foundation. “We’ll be telling them the day they were born was a beautiful day.”
These birthday parties focus on celebrating all students equally.
The Beautiful Day Foundation’s program does not judge people by their backgrounds or economic status.
Originally, Beautiful Day representatives thought they’d be in three Yukon lower (Pre-K-3) elementary schools starting this fall.
It was ultimately decided they’d be able to celebrate more kids’ birthdays by being in the two upper (4-5th grade) elementary schools, Lakeview and Independence.
“We’ve changed the schools that we’re going to,” said Hays, a 2007 Yukon High School graduate. “The only reason for that is that we can reach every kid in the fourth and fifth grade, instead of starting in just three schools.”
Once a month, Beautiful Day will present birthday parties for students at lunchtime in the Lakeview and Independence cafeterias.
Young celebrants sit at a special table decorated with balloons, birthday cards, “Beautiful Day” bracelets, plates, and napkins. A pizza lunch and cupcakes are provided through donations.
Beautiful Day volunteers sit at the birthday table to interact with the children.
A volunteer training will be 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15 at Vacca Territory Creamery & Coffeehouse, 10 W Main.
Beautiful Day’s founders will be there to present information and their Yukon liaisons will answer questions.
The Yukon Chamber of Commerce will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at next Thursday’s volunteer training.
Some volunteers attend every birthday luncheon while others only make it to some parties.
“We appreciate when they’re coming and celebrating with us – even if it’s one time of year,” Hays said. “They really get to see the meaning, purpose and difference that the program makes.”
The only requirements to volunteer are completing an application and passing a background check.
ROLE FOR EVERYONE
Volunteers will be needed at both Lakeview and Independence schools for three hours, between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., at each monthly birthday luncheon.
But their help is welcome even if they can only be there for an hour.
“There’s a role for everyone,” Hays said. “Sometimes that means passing out the pizza to the kiddos, sometimes that means checking in the birthday kiddos as they come through the door to make sure they are accounted for and we don’t miss anybody.”
Each birthday party allows adult volunteers to mentor students.
“One of the most important things they can do is squeezing in beside a couple kiddos, sitting down with them, talking to them about school and about what they like to do – maybe video games that they’re playing or sports they seem interested in,” Hays said.
“Just investing in things that they like.
“When the volunteers sit down and actually step out of their own comfort zone and chat with these kiddos, they’ll hear these kiddos tell them about everything. They’re so excited to talk about it.”
Beautiful Day and school officials alike have seen positive results in those schools where birthday parties have been celebrated over the past seven years.
“It helps keep the kids interested and also decreases any truancies or absentees that principals are seeing within the school,” Hays said.
“The kids really get excited. When they’re seen by somebody else (not from the school), they have this accountability. The kids expect you to show up and they want you to be there. To be wanted some place is sometimes all a kid needs.”
The Beautiful Day Foundation, which started in 2012 in Duncan, now celebrates student birthdays in several dozen Oklahoma schools.
The Yukon team must raise about $23,000 to provide monthly birthday parties for all YPS fourth and fifth graders during the 2019-20 school year.
Any business, organization or individual that donates $2,500 is called a capital donor.
“These capital donors are part of what provide long-term sustainability for our program through their partnerships,” Hays said. “They see a partnership and really believe in the program. That sponsorship is huge for us.”
A sponsor could cover the cost of all supplies for a monthly birthday party at one school – about $1,000.
Funds raised pay for the pizza, cupcakes, plates, napkins, tablecloths, balloons, drinks, bracelets, birthday cards, and desserts.
Any size donation is welcome. Even $10 will provide a pizza lunch for five students.
For more information, call Julie Simeroth at (405) 650-7450, Gracie Kroutil at (405) 822-0405 or Hays at (405) 474-7242.