SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — One in every 30 children is homeless each year in the U.S., according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. So a South Bay teenager set out to give as many of them as possible a luxury many of their parents cannot afford.
17-year-old Tanvi Barman pours her heart into giving birthday parties, like one recently thrown at LifeMoves shelter in San Jose for three homeless children.
“Every child deserves to feel special on their birthday,” Barman said. In this case, the honorees are three-year-old Maya and two six-year-olds, Dougie and Cruz.
Cruz couldn’t contain his excitement.
“I like having cakes and it’s a first time with my great day,” he smiled.
Cruz’s parents, including his dad, Everardo Caballero, can’t thank Barman enough.
“We’ve been homeless for a long time and having somebody help him out. It’s great for him,” he said.
Through her nonprofit, No Birthday Left Behind, Barman creates unforgettable celebrations for homeless kids, from babies to teenagers.
“It’s so sad that they’re already changing schools so much, they’re already struggling with food and clothes. And to not be able to feel special one day of the year, that’s just not okay,” Barman explained.
The recent party at LifeMoves was the 48th birthday party Barman has thrown. She personalizes each one. This one had a dolphin theme.
Barman partners with several East and South Bay shelters to give the birthday kids their favorite cake, pizza, presents, and goodie bags. There’s also entertainment like piñatas, arts and crafts, face painting or magic acts.
LifeMoves Children’s Services Coordinator Millicent Fynn marvels at how Barman juggles her senior year at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley with throwing an average of three parties a month for homeless kids.
“They really, really love her. She’s super creative. And she thinks way out of the box,” Fynn said. “What she’s doing is amazing, especially at her age.”
No Birthday Left Behind is starting five chapters outside the Bay Area: in southern California, Texas, New Jersey and Maryland.
To support the expansion, Barman is looking for national vendors to donate staples like cakes, pizzas and decorations.
In the end, Barman rounds up the volunteers and donations to give children the kind of party her parents gave her.
“It makes me so happy. I watch them having so much fun and it reminds me of my childhood,” Barman said.
So for making sure no birthday gets left behind for children in homeless shelters, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Tanvi Barman.