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State Honoree

Cameron Byrd

Washington

Michaela Raikes, 14, of Seattle, Wash., an eighth-grader at Villa Academy, started a program that provides birthday parties for children staying at an emergency shelter with their mothers. While volunteering as a mentor at the Sacred Heart Shelter, Michaela noticed there were never any birthday celebrations and quickly learned that the mothers couldn’t afford gifts or parties. Sometimes, a mother would request that her child’s birthday not even be mentioned. “While celebrating birthdays may not be considered a necessity, it gives parents and their children an important boost during a down period in their lives,” said Michaela. So she began using her own allowance and babysitting money to host birthday parties for the children. Michaela calls her program “Secret Birthday Pal” because the children believe their parents are actually hosting the parties. “My program gives parents the ability to celebrate rather than hide the birthdays of their children,” she said. In order to prepare, Michaela has each mom fill out a questionnaire about the birthday boy or girl. Then, she plans a theme for the party and purchases supplies. Her program has been so well received at the shelter, that Michaela hopes to expand her program to other shelters in the future.