WHAT THEY DO:
Founded in 2005, Birthday Buddies ensure kids living with their mothers in second-stage housing have a special celebration on their birthday. Women living in these apartments are escaping abusive relationships.
HOPES FOR THE HOLIDAYS:
Birthday Buddies represents a bright spot in the lives of many children in this often-difficult situation by providing a backpack full of age-appropriate toys and toiletries, ranging from bubble bath and lip gloss to razor blades and deodorant, a book and, if they're eight years old or older, a writing journal and pens.
Now in its sixth year, Birthday Buddies has delivered specialized backpacks to more than 500 children, but the non-profit volunteer organization needs help to cover its expenses. Each backpack costs about $100.
"I wanted to help disadvantaged kids on their birthdays," said Jennifer Fast, founder of Birthday Buddies.
Fast truly is a one-person show. She does all the buying and deliveries, stores everything in her house, runs her own website (birthdaybuddies.ca) and issues tax receipts.
There is no government funding for endeavours like Birthday Buddies, so Fast knocks on the doors of family, friends and schools.
One group recently held a toy drive for her, but Fast finds she can do even more with cash and a little strategic buying.
"If somebody donates 10 Barbie dolls, some of them will sit on my shelf until I have a girl age four to nine who's having a birthday. If I get a run on boys, those Barbies will sit on my shelf a little longer. If I get cash, I can be a pretty frugal shopper. I buy after Christmas and Valentine's Day so I can stretch my dollar," she said.
Sometimes, however, it truly is the thought that counts. "I've always said, if you have a 12-year-old daughter who wants to donate something that's really meaningful to her to Birthday Buddies, that's what she should do," Fast said.
HOW TO HELP:
Fast accepts cash and toys dropped off or mailed to her house at 206 Waverley St. in River Heights and her website is set up to accept Paypal and credit card payments, too.
Donations don't just come from adults, either. Fast said Birthday Buddies frequently gets a hand from philanthropic children who happily turn over their birthday money rather than accept gifts themselves.