Three Years

Three years ago today, my life changed forever. After about 6 months of trying to figure out the why, they when, and the how – we had our first birthday party.

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Three years ago this morning, I had no idea of what would happen in the next 12 hours. No idea that my heart would be permanently etched with the memories of a birthday party at Safe Harbor. I could have never dreamed of where we are today, the opportunities we have been privileged enough to provide our children, and the people we’ve had the honor of working alongside.

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In three years, a lot has changed. We’ve celebrated thousands of lives and have been able to walk alongside our children as they navigate their lives, fostering love and celebration in their hearts.

Three years ago, I would have never believed you if you would have told me that I would be balancing a “normal” college experience, with throwing birthday parties every week, managing two interns, countless meetings, speaking engagements, conference calls, making meticulous case notes, and all the other things I do day in and day out.

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In fact, if you had told me that three years ago, I would have vehemently denied it, citing the fact that I wouldn’t want to do that. However, three years ago – I was an idiot. These past three years have been the greatest adventure of my life and we are just getting started.

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Three years ago, we were just getting strapped into the roller coaster. We are still making that initial climb, anticipatory of what will come. In a few months, after making some carefully calculated decisions and prayerfully seeking what is next for our organization, we will throw our hands up, let the wind fly through our hair, and squeal with delight as we watch our programs bring more joy and love to the lives of our children.

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Thank you for being apart of this. Thank you for the past three years. Here’s to three hundred more.

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Fate Fotos

A Birthday Celebration

Hi there, y’all!

It’s been a little while since I’ve been around here…but I have a good reason, I promise.

Four years ago, when I founded celebrate! RVA in the commons of my high school, I would have never dreamed of where I would be today. It was a once-a-month birthday celebration that seemed impactful enough – but deep down, I knew we were capable of more. So we dreamt big and now….

We throw at least one birthday party a week, if not more. I manage a team of 100+ volunteers every week, coordinate meetings with potential donors and partners, maintain social media, donor management, PR, the IRS and trying my best to keep my inbox to under 50 unread emails.

This all to say, I’ve been busy. And I missed my annual birthday post. I’ve done it since the beginning and I wanted to make sure y’all knew that I haven’t forgotten about this little space. I still reflected on my birthday this year and this is what I’ve got for you. Might want to grab a bottle of wine and get ready for a doozy.

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Fate Fotos

From April 2015-April 2016, I think it is fair to say that my life was a bit of a roller coaster. The highest of highs (i.e., celebrating 1000 children, being named on The Prospect’s 20 Under 20 list, getting away on my first vacation in 3 years, working with countless, amazing RVA folks, bringing on the worlds most amazing assistant, and expanding to DC) and the lowest of lows.

While the lows are not all mine to share, they are certainly what most affected me in the past year. Time and time again, it felt like I was being barrel-rolled, never given the chance to stand back up, dust off, and prepare to be knocked down again.

But after a while, God showed up. and God showed up BIG.

We were given the opportunity of a lifetime to begin celebrating in DC with children who desperately need love and joy in their lives. After gaining insight on their lives and their day-to-day, it became clear that these children were truly intimidated by environments of joy. It is something that is so critical to child development, and they had been, simply put, deprived. Deprived of a true childhood in countless regards, from parental involvement to basic hygiene to education.

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Fate Fotos

But, birthdays? A birthday is so….human. It is something everyone has. and it is something everyone deserves to recognize. Birthdays are a time of celebration and love. A time to celebrate both the highs and lows of the year. A time to celebrate the joy that has surrounded you, and the love you’ve had to surround yourself with during the rough times. A time to celebrate your life and who you’ve become in the past year. A time to celebrate what your future holds.

For our children who do not even know their own birthday, they have never had the chance to celebrate their lives and who they have the potential to become. There is no special celebration of their accomplishments, no acknowledgment of the fact that they’ve spent another year beating the odds.

Our children deserve to be loved and deserve to be told that they matter, that they are important, and that our community cherishes them.

That is why we are expanding so quickly. There are countless children out there – children who don’t know the date they were born on, who do not comprehend the concept of a birthday candle – because they’ve never been told to make a wish before.

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Taylor Lynn Photography

Our birthday children desperately need joy in their lives, and we hope that your heart will be moved to help us do just that. I’m asking you to consider how you feel on your birthday – and give so that others may feel that same way.  Will you make a wish alongside me? A wish that is meaningful and important. Wish with me that every child in Richmond, D.C, and wherever we find this organization next, that every child may feel loved and celebrated.

With lots of birthday love,

Julia

changes around here

Hi, y’all!

If you’re looking for the celebrate! RVA blog where we will be sharing news, updates, and recaps of birthday parties — head over here. This site will be updated by both volunteers and celebrate! RVA staff.

This will be the new spot for some behind the scenes, more personal updates, and party styling, straight from the Girl in the Party Hat herself!

If you have any questions, please reach out to hello@celebraterva.org or julia@girlinthepartyhat.com.

XOXO

P.S — julia@girlinthepartyhat.com was previously unchecked and I accumulated quite a few emails. I’m working on responding to all of them now — please hang tight while I get to your message or feel free to resend it!

The New Neighborhood

When I first started celebrate! RVA, I found myself in a somewhat comfortable environment. While it was certainly new to me, I was blessed to know numerous people working in the school. I had contacts and was taken under my mentors’ wings. I was taught the ropes of the school and the space felt natural to me, as I had toured it countless times and briefly volunteered for a different program in earlier years.

But this upcoming school year we are going into a new space, with new people. There will not be any familiar faces, no wings to be taken under, and no tours.

I won’t pretend I am not nervous to grow into new schools. Both the celebrate! RVA interns and I will be facing a huge learning curve. There will be plenty of pressure to make this programming as incredible, and as successful as our parties at Oak Grove.

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However, I feel confident in and trust my phenomenal volunteers, board members, and donors to continue to support our mission and wrap their arms around our new school, the same way they have at Oak Grove Bellemeade.

I took the opportunity one beautiful Sunday evening, to drive around Gilpin Court + Jackson Ward, Carver Elementary’s zoned neighborhoods. I was admittedly hesitant. I didn’t know my way around, and no one was with me. I knew in my heart that I would never get to know new friends and faces if I didn’t take the chance to familiarize myself with the area. So, I drove. 

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I saw children running around outside. I saw families sitting out on their steps, talking and laughing. I saw an ice cream truck with smiling children eagerly awaiting a frosty treat. And I realized something:

Carver Elementary and the children there are full of the same potential joy, love, and celebration we discovered at Oak Grove. Where we thought little joy existed. we found that in that very place, joy was absolutely abundant. It just had to be encouraged. Children had to be given opportunities to celebrate their lives, and then they would find a place of love and celebration in their hearts, that they didn’t know even existed. We blossomed at Oak Grove, and will do the same at Carver. We will celebrate hundreds of children and will make sure they know just how loved and cherished they are by our community.

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Thank you for supporting celebrate! RVA during this exciting growth, and for celebrating our mission, no matter where we might be. Because no matter where we go, joy, love, and an enormous celebration will surely follow.Celebrate RVA 1.16.15-0925

Photos by: Steven and Lily Photography and Ash Carr Photography