I had the pleasure to meet Julia Warren, Founder & Executive Director of celebrate! RVA a few months back. Julia and I share a passion for giving back and serving the underprivileged (among other things) and while I look for ways to give back through my business, Julia's business is giving back through and through. celebrate! RVA is a non-profit that throws birthday parties for inner city youth that would otherwise not have the means to celebrate their special day. Julia believes that all children should be celebrated and through founding this organization she does this in the best and most humble way. Julia serves heart, body, and soul and these kids are her life. celebrate! RVA is making a huge impact on the youth of Richmond, and it's hard to believe that she founded the company at the ripe old age of 16! Sixteen! It is easy to forget when you are with her that she is now still only 19 and working toward her undergraduate degree in college. I am glad to say that I know Julia professionally, and even more thankful to be able to call her a friend. I am excited to see where the road leads from here. Now, I will let Julia tell you in her own words what celebrate! means to her.
"I live and breathe celebration, love and joy. So when my dear friend Maggie asked me to share some of the heart behind celebrate! RVA, the non-profit I founded almost three years ago, I was so excited to get to “chat” with y’all — because I know you understand the importance of love and celebration as well.
celebrate! RVA has a simple mission: to give disadvantaged children a memorable birthday celebration in a safe and fun environment. We believe that joy can transform a child and impact their lives in countless ways.
Our biggest program is our service in local schools. Both of the schools we currently work in, Oak Grove Bellemeade and Carver Elementary, see a 99% poverty rate in student demographics. Our children don’t know their own birthdays. They are not afforded the opportunity to celebrate their special day and be given the chance to be told how much they matter and are loved.
Our second program is one that created some of my most cherished memories. Working in the safe houses we partner with is incredible and so eye opening. The women and children that temporarily seek confidential housing with Safe Harbor, have been through more than I could ever fathom. They are inspiring and brave people who have taught me more about life than anyone else.
I’ll never forget a moment at the very first party we threw at Safe Harbor. I was so nervous for the event. I didn’t know what to expect. I had instructed and trained volunteers, hoping that the residents would respond well to the celebration. When our volunteers from VCU Men’s Soccer arrived at the home, the women were visibly scared, hiding behind me and finding every reason to leave the party area. But when they began to celebrate with us, and watched our birthday boy blow out the candles, and watched him open his presents, I saw smiles and I heard laughter. I watched these women and children slowly transform.
At the end of our birthday party, something magical happened in a moment I will never forget. A woman reached out for hug from a volunteer. For the residents in these safe houses, human touch does not come easy. Time and time again they have been betrayed by such actions. But an hour of simply joy, turned women who were hiding behind me, into women who reached for men they hadn’t known just an hour and a half before. The children desperately wanted more time with our volunteers, because they had finally been given the opportunity to celebrate their lives.
celebrate! RVA is always looking for volunteers (register here!). As we enter into this upcoming school year, we are seeking sponsors for birthday children. Each sponsorship is $15, and with that, you will give a child the opportunity to celebrate their special day. And for the next week, if you sponsor a child (here!), we will send you a “I celebrated my birthday with celebrate! RVA” wristband. Each one of our birthday children receives one, and we want to share this tradition with the people who help make it happen.
I’d love to chat more with any of y’all about our programming, or about how you can get involved! My inbox is always open to you, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isn't what Julia is doing for these kids simply amazing? It is important that we look upon people with less than and view them as holding as much value and worth as any other human walking the planet. What we have or don't have does not determine our worth. Organizations like celebrate! help restore some dignity to families in a fun, loving, and thoughtful way. If you are able, please consider getting involved. Even if you can't donate financially, I know Julia is always looking for volunteers to help with the parties. Thank you for taking the time to read this today and may you be blessed as you bless others.
Photos by: Stephen and Lily Photography