WATCH | This isn't your typical birthday party. This is a party for homeless kids.
Some of the best childhood memories are made with cake, candles and screaming friends -- and The Birthday Party Project wants to make sure every child gets the chance to celebrate.
The Dallas-based nonprofit is an organization that partners with homeless shelters and transitional living facilities across the country to host birthday parties for the kids staying there.
So far they've hosted over 3,300 birthdays with the help of local partners.
Paige Chenault, the founder of The Birthday Party Project, had the idea for the nonprofit around the time she learned she was pregnant with her daughter.
After dreaming up parties to throw her little girl, the former wedding planner decided to use her planning skills to give back to others.
"There were kids in my community that might not ever feel the joy that comes from being celebrated," she told Circa. "It hit me like a ton of bricks."
In fact, two million children and youth experience homelessness in America each year, per the latest data from the National Center for Family Homelessness.
The parties are a source of joy for the kids and their parents.
"They're actually fun," Neijan, a mother of two and current resident at the Greentree Shelter in Bethesda, Md., told Circa. "They get you energized."
Next stop: Expansion
The nonprofit is now in 12 cities in the U.S. with plans to continue expanding. The parties are funded entirely through donations from individuals, families, and businesses.
"For the first couple of years we just grew by word of mouth and then suddenly corporations like Nothing Bundt Cakes [started] calling us," Chenault said.
Papa Johns, The Container Store, and Kinsler's Kids are listed among their other corporate partners.
Nearly 10,000 "enthusiasts" (aka volunteers) are signed up to help with the festivities.
Homelessness looks a lot of different ways.
One of the challenges The Birthday Party Project has come up against is making sure the experiences are tailored to each community and shelter's needs.
"Homelessness looks a lot of different ways," Chenault said. So picking the strongest partners, "understanding what our communities need and then being able to keep up with the need" has been a central focus.
Building on momentum
For the Greentree Shelter, the partnership means bringing "the fun here to our families who may not be able to provide that for their children right now," program director Zewditu Tadessa told Circa.
Beyond expanding to new markets, the nonprofit has plans to build out their existing partnerships to better serve the communities they're already in.
"There's a lot of momentum behind what we're already doing and we want to capture that," Chenault said.
For her part, Chenault's very first party offered proof the company was on the right path.
Chenault remembers each moment of the project's first party by heart. There were 11 birthday kids and 60 kids in attendance.
One moment in particular still stands out to her. It reaffirmed her decision to change her career.
"This little 11-year-old boy Micah walks up to me and tugs on my sleeve and he just says 'Miss Paige. This is first birthday party I have ever had. Thank you.'"
She and Micah are still in touch.