A new way to celebrate

Balloons, $1.50. Ice cream cake, $20. The rented room, DJ or clown…?

Planning the perfect party can take a lot of cash, but with Chicago Cares, you can have a whole new kind of bash. More than cake and presents, it’s a chance to give back.

Chicago Cares organizes about 170 volunteer events each month and started customizing birthday events in 2005. Kristine Kappel of Chicago Cares remembers getting a call from a mom who was planning her daughter’s bat mitzvah."She was complaining about how much (money) people spent. She wanted to focus on the heart of what these events were supposed to be—teaching values and becoming an adult.”

Marla Brown of Highland Park was the mom who called. She knew the celebration was going to be big—her daughter Jordan’s party drew almost 300 guests."I thought if I was going to be putting in all that time (planning it), I was going to do something with impact.”

Brown turned most of the planning over to Chicago Cares. Their team coordinated a painting project at the Alternative Optional Education Center in Waukegan. In two hours, the party guests painted murals and hallways, planted seedboxes, and the younger ones packed back-to-school gifts for students.

“It’s important for kids to feel like they can do something,” Brown says."They need to know they have a responsibility to their community and they can make a difference.”

With Brown’s son Jason turning 13 in December, the family is back in league with Chicago Cares, planning another event. Since 2005, Chicago Cares has organized about 12 birthday events, says Kappel, manager of marketing and community involvement.

Though your child may not have 300 guests at his next party, Chicago Cares can coordinate groups of any size. Just give a donation to Chicago Cares and leave them two months of prep time. Meet to discuss plans and they’ll create an event that suits your child’s interests and accommodates all guests.

Watching your child celebrate by helping others? That’s priceless.

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