Making classroom celebrations sweeter, one child at a time

Celebrating milestones in a child’s life, like a birthday, is a joyous special occasion. But for families experiencing homelessness, the desire to create special memories for their child when funds, space, and time is limited can add strain on a parent, especially those working overtime on career and financial goals to build a better life for their family.  

Horizons recognize every parent’s unique circumstance and support parents and children in multiple and sometimes unexpected ways.   Our early education program focuses on trauma-informed play and works to create enrichment in the lives of our students and families. When Cakes4Kids, another non-profit, reached out, offering to provide celebratory treats for our students on their birthday, Horizons’ Center Director Jayd Rodrigues was excited to explore the partnership in our classrooms, recognizing there would be a benefit to both the children and their families.  

“Creative volunteers throughout Massachusetts sign up to make coconut-free and nut-free baked goods for our classroom celebrations,” Jayd shared when asked to describe the program. “Our requests go into a queue, and we’re able to add notes such as ‘baseball themed’ or ‘vegan’ with the date of delivery. Volunteer bakers then select and accept these requests to create something special for our children.” The cakes and cupcakes always come with kid-friendly designs such as fairy tales or animals, and dietary restrictions like lactose intolerance are noted to ensure every child participating is accommodated and can enjoy the celebration.  

“The bakers are so talented; they really add their own flare to each treat they create and donate.  It’s an opportunity for them to use their skills and interests to better the lives of the children we serve,” Jayd noted with a smile. 

“The experience of homelessness is traumatic for young children, and we want to help families create childhoods where there’s joy and celebration.  This partnership serves to enrich our classrooms, helping our teachers celebrate the uniqueness of each child while instilling a sense of belonging. It also supports our families who want to celebrate their children but might not have the means or the expendable time and resources to find ingredients and prepare goodies in shared shelter kitchens. Families feel many pressures, and when we can alleviate their mental load, it’s a win.” Jayd explained.  

Horizons is also very cognizant of Horizons families’ diverse cultural backgrounds and personal restrictions to ensure the classroom celebrations align with their beliefs. The organization takes pride in honoring each family’s lived experiences, and the partnership, so far, has been a popular success. 

At Horizons, we know what we do well, and increasingly, we’re looking at new ways to offer more holistic support to families as part of their engagement with us.  Bringing outside expertise in to make our services more valuable and impactful is part of our model, and inviting Cakes4Kids has been one more way we can help families overcome the trauma of homelessness.  

“It’s always exciting to pilot these types of partnerships that are really beneficial to the families, children as well as teachers. Now that we’re in the same building, all our classrooms can take advantage of the same opportunities, coordinating to create fun experiences for our students.” Jayd shared.  “For example, our annual Moving Up Ceremony utilized the Cakes4Kids partnership to create graduation cupcakes for all the graduating preschoolers and their families throughout the center.” 

With over 220 students and 22 classrooms in the new Edgerley Family Horizons Center, monthly birthday celebrations take place throughout the school where our students are learning, playing, and thriving as they enjoy childhood and all the wonderful moments in life worth celebrating.  Thanks to our friends at Cakes4Kids, who are truly making life a little bit sweeter for Horizons’ families!  

This piece was written by Andrea Drag, a regular contributor to Horizons’ blog.