After surviving the horror of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers, NJ woman Jane Hoffman knew it was time to take stock of her life and find fulfillment beyond her Wall Street trader’s career. She left Wall Street and for several years, she shared her financial skills and experience by helping small non-profits in her community with their fundraising. Then, at a county fair in 2014, she happened upon a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) team of volunteers and asked about their needs. An adoptive mom herself, she and her husband had been actively looking for ways to serve children in their community. She learned of the community drives CASA was doing to provide holiday gifts to children in foster care. The information she gleaned at that meeting made her wonder about foster kids and their birthdays. Her non-profit, A Birthday Wish (ABW) was born out of the first 6 partnerships with local CASA’s formed specifically to make birthdays special for as many foster kids as possible.
“Jane’s system is simple: Each month, CASA sends her a list of requests from kids and young adults (up to age 21) under its watch; she posts it on her website, where donors sign up to grant individual requests.” In addition to meeting these individual requests, ABW hosts outreaches like card-making and gift-wrapping parties so that each gift is given a personal touch. And now it’s not just parents doing the gift-giving: children are turning their own birthday parties into opportunities to grant wishes for the foster children in their own communities instead of receiving gifts for themselves.
ABW brings more than just a day’s joy; it’s also helping kids learn to trust again. “Abused and neglected children have experienced broken promises,” says Jane. “Giving them something they specifically asked for is a step in trust-building.”