Box of Balloons core team

The core team for Box of Balloons. FRONT ROW: Founder Nicole Moll, left, and Rebecca Verhulst. BACK ROW, FROM LEFT: Kaitlin Hansen, Amy Harris, Amy Ritzke, Emily Kaellner, Michelle Krogstad, April Britto, and Jen McClure.

Of the 365 days in a typically year, there is one day that holds particular importance to most elementary school children – their birthday.

It is a day to celebrate themselves, and while many kids look forward to the streamers, balloons and cake that make up a birthday celebration, there are some whose families are unable to afford such a celebration.

To ensure that each and every child is provided with a celebration that honors their life, Poynette resident Nicole Moll has started Box of Balloons, a non-profit organization that brings together dozens of volunteers to fill boxes with birthday celebration material for area children.

Founded in November 2013, the organization was born after a series of events surrounding birthdays, celebrations and prayer.

To start, the mother of three has countless childhood memories of themed birthday parties complete with party games, favors and cakes thrown by her own mother.

Then, in 2012, Moll’s friend sent her a Web site link for a New York organization that throws monthly birthday parties for children in need. The idea appealed to Moll, but with a newborn and two other children under the age of four, making it a reality seemed anything but possible.

Just more than a year later in the fall of 2013, Moll was sitting in her office as a part-time marketing manager wondering how she could be used to better people’s lives. The idea came to her and following a phone call to friends, Box of Balloons was born.

With a core group of 10 members on its leadership team and many connections of her own to the Sun Prairie community, the organization set to work on bringing the celebrations into the homes of area children.

“I though, if I can afford to throw my child a birthday party, it’d be fun to be able to give that to someone who couldn’t,” Moll said.

But rather than throw the entire party as the New York organization did, Moll, who is the organization’s director, decided it would be best to serve as a provider and allow the family to lead the celebration.

“I thought it’d be great to also empower the parents,” Moll said. “They don’t like to be in the situation where they need help with it in the first place.”

The organization has partnered with the Sun Prairie and Marshall school districts as well as Shelter From the Storm Ministries to find families in need who have a child but are unable to provide a birthday celebration.

“Just looking at all the local school districts, we thought Sun Prairie would be a great place to start because there’s so many elementary schools,” Moll said.

School social workers nominate students with good character whose parents are unable to provide the celebration. From there, a simple form is filled out detailing the child’s birth date, age, gender and interests, and is then submitted to Box of Balloons.

From there, an e-mail is sent out to the organization’s 60-member volunteer group. Volunteers decide which party supply they will provide for the box, which is filled with decorations, tableware, balloons, a party game, party favors, cupcakes and a gift for the birthday child.

Birthday boxes are then delivered to the school or community organization on the Friday closest to the child’s birthday for the parent or guardian to pick up and use to throw a birthday celebration for their child.

“We really want the whole celebration to be given by the parent or caregiver,” Moll said.

To date, the organization has provided 16 birthday boxes, 15 of which have celebrated students in the Sun Prairie Area School District and one of which has honored the birthday of a Marshall School District student.

The organization has a leadership team that meets once a month, and a group of more than 60 volunteers.

There are three ways to get involved – by joining the volunteer team, sharing your birthday celebration, and bringing a Box of Balloons to your community.

Locals who live in the Madison area can join the volunteer team, which helps fill the birthday boxes with supplies. Seven volunteers are needed for each box.

“It’s up to you how often you want to help out,” Moll said.

“Share Your Celebration” entails inviting family, friends and party guests to donate money in addition to or in lieu of your own birthday gifts. It takes approximately $50 to fill one birthday box, with all donations going toward boxes.

“You can determine how many boxes you want to fill from your celebration,” Moll said. “This past week we had a 3-year-old share his celebration … for his birthday, he was able to raise enough money to fill four boxes so that was really cool. So far we’ve had three people share their celebrations.”

Under the “Birthdays By You” option, those interested in bringing the non-profit to their area can gather friends, family, co-workers and neighbors who believe in the cause and contact a local school district to let them know about the resource. More information may be found on the Box of Balloons Web site, www.boxofballoons.org. Donations may also be provided on the organization’s Web site.

“We’re just hoping to keep filling more boxes and celebrating more kids,” Moll said. “ … We’d love for it to keep growing and growing, and for it to spread to other cities and other states. I’d love to have hundreds of people sharing their birthday celebration.”

Lifestyle Editor of The Star newspaper in Sun Prairie, Wis.

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