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Recently, we had a royal celebration that was quite, well, extraordinary. This party's theme was not an option on the party questionnaire, but we encourage families to write in what they want if it's not already listed. Read in her own words how one of our party planners started with EOB and later conceptualized and pulled off this party fit for a queen.
My name is Linay Franklin, and I am a single mother of two beautiful daughters (22 & 17), a full-time employee at American University, a full-time business owner, and an Extra-Ordinary Birthdays Party Planner. When I first contacted Schinnell Leake to see how I could help with the mission of Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, I thought I would just do Swag Bags for the parties. But Schinnell had already seen my work on my Instagram page and wanted me to be a full-fledged EOB Party Planner. And she knew exactly where she wanted to place me: Barnaby House.
In September 2018, I started planning parties at Barnaby House. My first party was a Mickey Mouse party for a 4-year-old boy. It was a pretty easy theme, and I received lots of encouragement and help from my co-Party Planner, Jolene McNeil. She explained how we set up and do things, and I picked up fast. Over the next few months, I was assigned parties that were also easy themes: a spa party for a 10-year-old, a Paw Patrol party for a 1-year-old, a Doc McStuffins party for a 4-year-old, and a PJ Masks party for a 2-year-old.
In January, Jolene and I met with the families of Barnaby House. During that meeting, I was introduced to the families as an addition to the EOB Barnaby House Birthday Party planning team. The families filled out the EOB party questionnaire, where they chose a theme and gave gift suggestions and clothing/shoe sizes. The families learned about me as a party planner and my “Party Genies” (my friends that contribute financially to the parties or the gifts). During my introduction, I asked the families to think outside the box with their themes. I assured them that I could make their child’s birthday party a unique one. Little did I know what door I had unlocked.
When we received the questionnaires back, there were some unique themes. Because I made the “unique theme" announcement, Jolene assigned them to me. That's how I got a May birthday party with a “Queen” theme for 12-year-old Amoni.
When I first saw “Queen,” so many ideas ran through my mind. First, I thought of “Queen Bee” and using elements from Beyoncé. Then, I thought “Queen of Hearts” from Alice in Wonderland. But the more I thought about it, I thought about tying EOB’s mission into the “Queen” theme. Eureka! “Young Black Queen” became the theme for Amoni’s birthday party. Because she was turning 12, this EOB party would be Amoni's last. I had to send her off in style.
Twelve is a pivotal age. While I was planning Amoni’s party, I was constantly thinking of the things I taught my daughters when they were 12. I remembered teaching them to love the skin they were in no matter the hue, be leaders and not followers, plan for their futures because they had just 6 years until adulthood, and love themselves above anything and anyone else - for the love of yourself is projected and teaches others how to love you.
I chose very interactive activities for the party. For the first activity, the birthday “Queen” and her guests got to write on a custom placemat what they see when they look in the mirror. My goal for that activity was to teach the girls positive reassurance. They should always see a Black Queen when they look in the mirror.
For the second activity, they got to decorate their own handheld mirror with crystals, rhinestones, and custom-made stickers with positive quotes. This activity allowed them to express their own creativity and to make something just for them. Every time they look in the mirror they decorated, they not only see something they created but they also get the positive reinforcement from the quote they chose.
For the third activity, they wrote letters to their 18-year-old future selves. I simply instructed the girls to think about what they would say to an 18-year-old version of themselves. What would they want to tell her as she graduated high school? What would they want to tell her as she embarked for college, the military, or the workforce? I then gave them custom glitter cards, envelopes, pens, and a sticker to put on the envelope that said “Dear Self.” I wanted the girls to do that activity so that they could open the letters when they were 18 and see how far they had come, to see how different their frame of thinking is at 18 than it was when they were 12, and above all to show them that they lived through the last 6 years and LOOK AT THEM NOW!
For the fourth and final activity, they got to decorate their own cupcakes with crowns, pearls, and edible rhinestones. My purpose for this activity was to show the girls that they can create beauty no matter what the medium was.
So, Always Unique, in conjunction with Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, created another successful birthday party for a well-deserving kid experiencing homelessness. We are in unison with believing that circumstances don't negate the fact that you are special: you deserve to be celebrated ESPECIALLY on your birthday. With that being said, I believe the Birthday Queen and her guests had a ROYAL good time and walked away with a heaping dose of self-love, self-respect, and self-worth.
Special thanks to Sylvia Johnson, the CEO and Owner of J.I. Solutions, for being the "Party Genie" of this celebration!
Want to share your creativity or fund an EOB Celebration too? Click here to learn how you can help ignite self-worth in the life of a homeless child.