Confetti, banners, and stacks of presents wrapped with care are a birthday dream come true for children everywhere, but for homeless kids across Long Island, this dream was often elusive — until now.
Through the help of the nonprofit Candles For Hope (CFH), this dream is becoming a reality for children in LI’s shelters. Founded by Exit Realty Achieve, CFH members collaborate with parents and local shelters to anonymously provide birthday parties for displaced children.
“We are looking at this as an opportunity to really bring hope into the life of a child,” says Susan Hamblen, owner of Exit Realty Achieve and founder of CFH. “Our hope is to provide normalcy and just a sense of joy to a child. A birthday party should be a time to celebrate and we want to bring that celebration to a child’s life.”
Gift suggestions always come directly from parents, ensuring that each child receives presents reflective of their own unique interests. In keeping with the times, CFH reports their most requested gift item of late is a tablet.
“CFH has the same mission in life that I do , which is helping people,” says Jason Furnari, party coordinator for CFH. “Every day, when I get a phone call to book those parties for these children, I get a smile on my face and I can’t wait to hear the stories that they have.”
The nonprofit achieves its goal through annual fundraisers and donations, such as its most recent event in March at the Stonebridge Country Club in Smithtown that raised more than $51,000. With the sponsorship of Exit Realty and the community’s avid support, CFH has formed connections with communities beyond LI.
Jeff Mistretta, vice president and co- founder of Candles For Hope, hopes CFH can continue to give the gift of hope to homeless children across the nation.
“It’s in my heart that Candles for Hope will one day be across this entire country in every single state, possibly in every single town, impacting all children who are either in a displaced environment or currently experiencing homelessness,” he says.
For more information or to make a donation, visit candlesforhope.org