Caroline Wayer (left), a junior at Catholic Memorial High School, and her mother Marcia have opened a Waukesha chapter of Box of Balloons, a charity that helps brightens birthdays for families with financial hardships. (Submitted photo)
Every parent wants to give their child a memorable birthday party. But for so many families, that simply isn’t part of their financial reality.
So when Caroline Wayer and her mother Marcia were searching for volunteer opportunities, Madison-based non-profit Box of Balloons caught their eye. Through volunteer-led chapters in 29 states, Box of Balloons partners with social workers to provide birthday parties to children whose families are struggling to make ends meet.
“We thought it would be something fun to do that was really impactful,” said Caroline, a junior at Catholic Memorial High School, who said that she was particularly seeking a service opportunity to do in her free time that would allow her to assume a leadership role.
With her mom’s help, Caroline applied to open a Waukesha chapter of Box of Balloons and set about searching for social workers who could connect her with a population in need. She was referred by the Christmas Clearing Council of Waukesha County to Mary Green, a social worker at Whittier Elementary School in Waukesha, where more than three-quarters of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Green said she was “very excited” to hear from the Wayers and felt the mission of Box of Balloons “would be something our parents would be very interested in.”
“They definitely want to do right by their children and do good things for their birthday, but they don’t always have the resources to do the things they would like to do,” she said, adding that Whittier students and families represent some of the financially neediest in the school district.
Beginning in December, Green began compiling lists of birthdays of Whittier students for each month and contacted families to inquire about interest. On a monthly basis, she provides Caroline with a list of three students per month, including the students’ age and a theme for the party. Caroline then gets to work compiling the students’ boxes, each of which will contain everything that a parent needs to throw a party for up to six guests.
Every box is worth about $100 and includes tableware, decor, a dozen cupcakes and candles, a birthday gift and card, party favors and a party activity.
“From a mom’s perspective, it’s nice that we’re able to take the weight off of a parent,” said Marcia Wayer, who helps Caroline build the boxes. “Every parent truly wants to do the best for their kids. If this makes it easier and one less thing they have to worry about, I think that’s important.”
“It’s a great opportunity to give kids good birthday memories like the ones I had,” said Caroline Wayer.
To fund the boxes, Caroline relies on cash donations or donations from Amazon wish lists she has compiled. When the box is completed, she delivers it to Green, who delivers it to the benefitting family.
“The box is always so beautifully decorated with the child’s name and it could be used for things after the party. The families have been very appreciative that everything was just done really nicely and it was in a theme that they knew their child would like,” said Green. “This is one of those things where, as more of our families learn about it, I can see other parents calling me to ask about getting on the list.”
The Waukesha Culver’s location at 840 W. Sunset Drive will host a fundraiser for the Waukesha chapter of Box of Balloons from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24.
The community can support Box of Balloons Waukesha by directly contributing to the costs of
birthday boxes, by in-kind support or sponsoring a box in coordination with the local chapter leaders, as well as sharing Box of Balloons with social workers, teachers, pastors and others who can contact Box of Balloons to celebrate a child. For more information, follow their Facebook page, Box of Balloons, Inc.-Waukesha, or visit boxofballoons.org/wisconsin-waukesha.