Community birthday organizer seeks help to continue project
Needed are monetary donations, $5 gifts that are age-appropriate for boys and girls 7 to 14, tableware and birthday decorations that can be used again. Brighter Birthday Community Parties' tax-deductible donations may be submitted to Ann Toebaas at 201 E. Milwaukee St., Janesville, 53545. For more information, email email@example.com.
JANESVILLE When the 8-year-old girl pulled the small stuffed animal from her birthday gift bag, she was so happy she gave Ann Toebaas a crushing hug.
Then she told Toebaas she'd never had a cuddly toy and had always wanted a Beanie Baby.
"It just broke my heart," said Toebaas, who broke down and cried.
For three years, the Janesville woman has been sponsoring Brighter Birthday Community Parties for disadvantaged young people.
They might end if she isn't able to secure enough donations.
Money in hand will pay for only one more party. It's scheduled for Friday, Dec. 14, at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.
Toebaas doesn't want the birthday parties that are open to all children in the community to stop.
"I am so committed to this, but I don't know how long I can afford to keep this going," she said.
Toebaas, who owns and operates a downtown business, created the community birthday parties after attending a self-improvement/self-awareness class that encouraged her to find a need and then create a project to give back.
With a huge decline in jobs due to business closings, Toebaas knew families were being affected. She wanted to provide something they were missing and a way for the community to get involved.
She contacted businesses, received donations, recruited volunteers, invited children from a number of local nonprofit organizations and began hosting birthdays for young people at the Boys & Girls Club.
Only a couple of children showed up, and Toebaas had volunteers standing around with nothing to do.
"Because we had so many parties with no children, volunteers dwindled away," she said.
Originally, parties were once a month and on Sundays at the Boys & Girls Club when it was closed to membership.
So after six months of Sunday parties, they were changed to Friday afternoons every other month. Attendance has grown to 70-plus children who are treated to cake and ice cream, while the 20-some kids who have birthdays during those months also receive small gifts.
Now it's primarily Toebaas and staff at the Boys & Girls Club who make these birthday parties happen, she said.
Toebaas finds the parties fulfilling.
"Being a grandmother and being able to give back to those who don't have much is very rewarding," she said.