DENVER – When you're a kid, nothing is more exciting than birthday parties.
And for the nearly 3,000 homeless children in Denver, the chance to celebrate life's milestones with cake, presents and friends means even more.
Planning a party is hard work. Luckily Rise Justice is an expert.
“I think party planning is down to a science by this point,” said Justice, the Director of Birthday Smiles.
Christian Watt just turned 9 years old. He comes here to Colfax Community Network every day after school.
“I think this adds something to an otherwise very precarious existence that they have,” Justice said.
Every night, kids like Christian go home to subsidized motels like King’s Inn on the corner of East Colfax Avenue and Nome Street.
“Drug dealers, prostitution, murder – they’ve seen it all,” Justice said.
It’s an area filled with families who have nowhere else to go.
There are over 3,000 homeless kids in metro Denver, Justice estimates, some of whom have been living in a one-bedroom motel with their families for over four years.
“If this is the one good thing we can do for them, so be it,” said Justice.
For the past 15 years, Colfax Community Network has been helping homeless children and their families living along East Colfax. They offer afterschool programs for 25 homeless children between the ages of 7 to 13.
“This place is like a port in the storm. They can depend that these people are going to be here,” said Justice. “I realize their lives are hard and this may be the only birthday party they get.”
Giving a child the birthday party they deserve and receiving much more in the process – that’s what Birthday Smiles is.
“The look on their faces when they get something that they want is priceless,” said Justice. “That’s what I do this for; I can see the happiness in their face and I love it.”
To donate to Birthday Smiles, visit their website here.