RICHMOND, Va. -- When you're five years old, few things matter more than after-school playtime. Hopscotching and hula hooping through life. What could be better?
A group of adults may have the answer.
What some of these little ones at Oak Grove Bellmeade Elementary don't know -- a surprise awaits.
Steps away from the playground, at the Community Center on Richmond’s Southside, a birthday bash for nearly 40 children is about to kickoff.
"For me it’s a lot of fun to put these together," Julia Warren, the founder and chief party planner for Celebrate RVA, said. "You get to eat cupcakes. Throw confetti. Blow up balloons and recreate your own childhood."
Six years ago, the Richmond woman's heart broke when a child she tutored shared they never had a birthday party. That moment would change Julia's life. The VCU student founded her non-profit with one goal in mind -- everyone deserves a birthday party.
"This is my full-time job," Warren said. "We have served 3,000 children over the past six years."
Many here may go without something so simple as candle or cupcake.
"Some of our children don’t know how to process happiness and joy," she said.
Volunteers help pull off parties at schools, shelters, and hospitals. Corporate sponsors cover the cost -- $15 for one child to enjoy their special day.
The memories will last long after the frosting disappears.
Program Coordinator Paige Sigler said it was hard to say who enjoyed these frosting covered fiestas more.
“It's 100% worth it. It's not really work when you have this much fun,” Sigler said. “To be here first hand and give it to them is such a blessing to us.”
Presents and party favors go home with each child, but they leave with so much more.
Julia Warren is making sure birthday boys and girls don't go without. For these children their wish has already come true.
“It is a place where kids are given permission to laugh and smile and squeal with delight,” Warren said. “When I see the joy and smiles on kids faces nothing else matters and I couldn’t imagine doing any other work.”
Julia is working on a new Celebrate RVA space on Oliver Hill Way. It is expected to open in 2020.
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