Extra-Ordinary Birthdays Event at e-lofts on March 18th

You’re Invited! Extra-Ordinary Birthdays (EOB) is throwing an Extra-Ordinary Gathering at e-lofts on Sunday, March 18th, and we can’t wait. All donations (accepted in the form of a gift card) will benefit this organization as they continue to throw incredible birthday celebrations for local homeless youth. We had the chance to chat with Executive Director Schinnell Leake and birthday party planner extraordinaire, Denise Graham, leading up to the event. Read on to find out more about the incredible work this organization is doing in our community.


Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays?

Denise Graham: It was an “extra special feeling” that Schinnell felt a birthday party brought to the ordinary moments in the lives of children which lead her to establish Extra-Ordinary Birthdays (EOB) in 2010. After learning that more than 2,000 children live in homeless shelters throughout the Washington, D.C. area, Schinnell decided not to, in the words of Sam Rayburn, “… wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action, [but] try to use ordinary situations.”  Eating cake, singing “Happy Birthday,” playing games, and opening presents are all ordinary parts of a birthday party that can be taken for granted. However, when you are homeless, life is anything but ordinary. The means to pay for, or even think about planning, a birthday party is often out of a parent’s reach when they are worrying about securing a warm, safe, and permanent place for their family to sleep each night. Schinnell wanted to help homeless children feel valued and important like she did growing up, and like her children did during their birthday parties.  


How did you get involved with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays?

Denise G.: My husband and I have raised four compassionate and intelligent children. When my eldest daughter reminded me of a life lesson we instilled in our children as they were growing up –the importance of giving back– I reassessed my life and realized I wasn’t doing enough to make a positive difference in the lives of others. That’s when I applied for a volunteer position with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays.

Photo from extraordinarybirthdays.org


How long have you been involved with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays?

Denise G.: I have been an EOB volunteer for 10 months.


What is your role in the organization?

Denise G.: I am one of three EOB Gift List Specialists. Each month I announce my list of birthday children to my contacts; friends, family, colleagues, and organizations. Donations are delivered to my home or picked up, and prepared for delivery to the designated shelters.


What has been the most rewarding part of working with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays?

Denise G.: It has been very rewarding to witness the outpouring of support for the birthday gift requests. My family and friends ensure all of the requests are answered each month.
Photo from extraordinarybirthdays.org


Do you have a favorite moment or experience that you’ve had with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays? If so, what is it?

Denise G.: To see the difference this program makes in the lives of the children; the smiles, not only on the faces of the children, but the moms and dads too…it’s priceless! The teenaged children usually receive gift cards and books for their gift. The gift card allows them to shop independently, and acquire what matters most to them in their individual circumstance. We recently worked with a young woman who was celebrating her 17th birthday. She is planning to begin college next year. When she received her gift card from a very generous donor, she actually wrote a note of thanks explaining how the gift made a way for her to acquire some of the items she needed as she prepares for school. That was an “ah-ha!” moment for me!


Can you give us some information about the event at e-lofts? What should people expect?

Denise G.: With their gift card donation at the entrance, Extra-Ordinary Gathering guests will experience an afternoon with great people seeking to make a positive difference, learn about EOB’s mission, and how they can host their own Extraordinary Gathering. Of course, there will be great artisans, delicious food and libations too!


What should attendees bring to the e-lofts event?

Denise G.: Gift card donations, compassion, and great enthusiasm!  
Photo from extraordinarybirthdays.org


If someone can’t attend the e-lofts event, are there any other ways that they can donate to EOB?

Schinnell Leake: Extra-Ordinary Birthdays is dependent upon donations and fundraisers to finance all aspects of providing birthday parties to homeless children, as well as to cover administrative costs and expenses to maintain the organization and its operations. Individuals can best support Extra-Ordinary Birthdays in the following ways:

  1. Visiting EOB’s website, www.extraordinarybirthdays.org, for direct donations;
  2. Supporting the Extra-Ordinary Light Project by creating a personal fundraiser, and;
  3. Holding your own Extra-Ordinary Gathering through a personal social event to raise monetary donations and gift cards like the one being held on March 18th at e-lofts!


Are there any volunteer opportunities with EOB or other ways to get involved with the organization?

Schinnell L.: Volunteers do valuable work with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays benefiting the local community of homeless families. Volunteers fulfill EOB’s vision of a community that recognizes the transformative power of birthday celebrations for homeless children; one that empowers their caregivers, and inspires moments of joy and happiness in the lives of families experiencing homelessness. EOB Volunteers can help by:

  1. Serving as party hosts which includes helping decorate the venue, setting-up, cleaning-up, serving snacks/cake, and engaging with and entertaining the children through games and activities during the birthday celebrations;
  2. Volunteering as party planners, preparing games, activities, crafts, goody bags, and addressing all other aspects of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays’ party planning prior to party day;
  3. Serving as lead party hosts, or;
  4. By engaging in one of the many other behind the scenes opportunities supporting the team at EOB headquarters.

Thanks to Schinnell and Denise for all this great information about the history and purpose of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays! We hope to see you all on Sunday for this fantastic event. If you have more questions, email dgrahambiz@gmail.com or visit extraordinarybirthdays.org.