It’s all true: the site is the personal charity of a middle-class Ypsilanti family. The mom, thirty-three-year-old Michelle, asked that their last name not be printed, because they’re “not looking for a pat on the back.” So far this year they’ve received eighteen birthday requests they consider legitimate, and fulfilled thirteen of them.
The project began last fall, when Michelle learned that a family she knew couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving meal. When she told her husband, she recalls, “he looked at me and said, ‘Go to the store and get them whatever they need.’ We bought everything for their dinner, including salt and pepper. They were able to live on the leftovers for two weeks.”
In December they ran an ad on craigslist that offered to buy the ingredients for Christmas dinners. More than forty families responded—many, Michelle says, with heartbreaking stories of foreclosures, divorces, medical bills, and domestic assaults. But even with online offers of food donations and assistance, she was able to assist only seven families.
After a craigslist reader scolded her for helping out only during the holidays, she looked for a year-round activity, and hit on birthday parties. Why worry about birthdays, when many people lack even the basics of food and shelter? Michelle explains that when she was growing up, “I never had a good birthday because my parents couldn’t afford it. . . . [Birthdays] are a bit of innocence for a child. It’s that one special day that should be their day.