CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- When you’re a child living in foster care, life is anything but normal. Caroline Neal witnessed firsthand the loneliness of children in limbo.
“There are kids in our community who don’t have anyone,” said Caroline. “A set of siblings said if I could change one thing about foster care, they held a sign up and said, ‘A forever home.”
The Midlothian mother of three spent ten years as a social worker in Chesterfield.
“This is just the reality for kids. It’s probably the most traumatic thing they’ll experience for many of them,” said Caroline. “You’re waiting and waiting and waiting. No one is coming. You can imagine what kind of emptiness it can create for a child.”
Caroline knew she needed to act.
“Many kids are bouncing around from school to school and from home to home,” Caroline explained.
In 2015, she founded Worthdays. A non-profit providing a sense of normalcy through simple acts.
“As of September, there were 5,517 kids in foster care in Virginia,” said Caroline.
Worthdays provides birthday boxes for children living alone in this world.
“We want to meet the needs. Now social workers know we want to help,” she added.
Caroline developed her giving heart while growing up in Richmond’s Oregon Hill.
“Even though there was poverty, there was community. People took care of each other. There were people who were placed in the community who were helpers,” said Caroline.
Caroline says no child should go without knowing someone cares.
“Our birthday boxes provide the vehicle of celebration and take the focus off the bad things that are happening, and we know that there are bad things and they are experiencing bad things and trauma,” said Caroline.
In four years, Worthdays has helped celebrate 700 birthdays. Last Easter she delivered 265 Easter baskets.
“That is what drives me to know that there are needs out there that we can meet, and the community can meet. Easily,” said Caroline.
The all-volunteer group donates toys, gift cards, and duffle bags.
“People have come out in such strong force to say we believe in these kids too. ‘What can we do to help?’ That has been awesome,” stated Caroline.
She is waiting for the day when Worthdays will no longer be needed. Until then she, her three sons with help from anonymous donors will build birthday boxes.
“It’s pretty close to a full-time job these days,” said Caroline.
Providing joy and smiles for children surviving on their own.
“If the least that I can do is celebrate them on their birthday and have that one opportunity to tell them that they’re worth it then I’m going to take it,” said Caroline.
If you would like more information about donating to Worthdays, click here.
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