Rich has been wanting to have a birthday party with his friends at InVision for a long time. While his family and team would always ensure his big day was a special one, organizing and financing a party at InVision’s Wexford office just wasn’t in the cards.
Many of our fondest memories come from birthdays. Whether we had big parties or small get togethers, we’re connected by this shared celebratory tradition of becoming one year older. But oftentimes people with disabilities don’t have the opportunity to celebrate in the ways they wish they could.
So when InVision Foundation launched its most recent program, Carrie Dunkowski—a program supervisor at InVision—jumped at the opportunity to finally give Rich the birthday party he’s dreamed of.
Making a difference in the lives of the people we support
Launched earlier this year, Birthday Bonanza provides the people we support with the means to celebrate their birthdays in ways that are meaningful to them. InVision utilizes this program and others like it to enrich the lives of the people we support, but we could not achieve that goal without the support of our donors.
“Government funding provides for their basic needs, but it does not provide for authentically inclusive community engagement activities and events for the people we support,” Ann Felter, vice president of InVision Foundation, said. “InVision is grateful for our donors whose gifts make [our programs] possible.”
For Rich, having a big birthday party—complete with cake, balloons, and party snacks—with all of his friends at InVision was just the event he needed to experience the same joy and excitement we all feel on our birthdays. And Birthday Bonanza made this possible.
“[The birthday party] is his dream come true,” Carrie said. “[When Birthday Bonanza was launched] I immediately asked myself, ‘What is the perfect party for Rich?’”
After applying for Birthday Bonanza funding, Carrie and Rich’s team got to work helping Rich plan every aspect of his party. From the guest list to the flavor of the cake batter, everything was driven by Rich—he made all the choices. While Carrie and Rich’s staff were planning for a party at the office regardless, she credits Birthday Bonanza with “making it real”.
Creating a meaningful birthday with Birthday Bonanza
Rich’s party was everything he wanted and more. InVision staff—old and new friends alike—packed into the small conference room which was decked out in decorations. Birthday messages hung off the walls, balloons floated in the corners, and a table was stacked high with pizza boxes—Papa John’s, Rich’s favorite. Everyone at InVision who heard about Rich’s wish for a big birthday party certainly didn’t disappoint: Guest after guest approached Rich to wish him a happy birthday, and he took the time to talk with each and every one of them.
“It mean[s] a lot that so many people came,” Rob Noerr, Rich’s longtime team lead, said.
When Carrie brought in the cake, Rob nudged Rich to take a look. A grin slowly broke across his face. The candles were lit, and after “Happy Birthday” was sung and Rich blew them out, the room erupted into applause. His smile never faded.
While Carrie and Rich’s team were determined to give Rich a great birthday this year, Birthday Bonanza gave them the opportunity to fulfill his vision of the perfect birthday party.
“[Birthday Bonanza] demonstrates the capabilities of our core values and mission, and what we can achieve for the people we support,” Carrie added.
We may view birthday parties as a “rite of passage” or a tradition we collectively share, but for the people we support, these events can be the experience they need to live their vision of a meaningful life. As Rich left InVision that afternoon positively elated, no truer words could have been spoken.
Learn more about how you can support Birthday Bonanza or our other programs by reaching out to InVision Foundation.