Birthday boxes for children of domestic abuse

Posted at 10:43 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 23:43:13-05
There's nothing more heartwarming than watching kids helping kids.
"I think this is a wonderful project, teaching children the joy of giving to others," said Rennee Tangwall, Program Coordinator at the Young Child Development Center.
Three and four-year-olds at the Appleton daycare and preschool are filling birthday boxes with cake, candles, balloons and party favors to put a smile on the faces of the children who are forced to celebrate their special day at the Harbor House domestic abuse shelter.
"Some of the families that come to us sometimes say that this is the first birthday they've celebrated, or it was the most meaningful birthday, and we stop and pause and say, 'My goodness,'" explained Harbor House Supervisor Wendy Gehl.
Gehl says children in domestic abuse situations often feel invisible, because mom is struggling to survive and dad is consumed with controlling her. Once they escape to Harbor House she says they work hard to provide hope and healing.
"It's really important that we are saying to each child, 'You are important, you are valuable, you are loved and you are cared about,' and not just by that parent, but by us as a community." 
The preschool community at YCDC has been collecting donations and delivering birthday boxes for the past four years which eases the burden for mothers who, due to legal fees and loss of income, can't afford to throw their sons and daughters a party.
"These are children who don't necessarily always get the best of everything, so we're hoping that that one special day for their birthday, they can have that fun time with family," said YCDC Director Sarah Ross.
But the project is also impacting the kids back at YCDC.
Tangwall says, "Teaching children empathy and helping others will hopefully follow them through as they grow, and they'll want to do projects like this as they get older as well." 
They're molding young minds to make a difference, while raising awareness of a problem that we can tackle with a little teamwork 
"We have such gratitude of all the families that took the time to put this together," says Gehl.  
Harbor House served 270 children last year. Click here for more information on how you can help the shelter.