Queen's students give back to community with Sunshine Celebrations

·3 min read

A group of students at Queen’s University are giving back to the Kingston community in a new way. Sunshine Celebrations, which launched earlier this year, plans birthday parties for children and families in need in the Kingston area.

“This organization was started by a group of Queen's students who were looking for a fun and unique way to give back to the Kingston community that has been so welcoming to us,” shared Izabelle O’Connor, Club Founder and President. “The executive team consists of myself, as well as Carissa Graham, Emma Keen, Suzy Leinster, Brooke Lewinsky, Kaitlin Colquhoun, Brady Sterling and George Kay. We were truly inspired by looking at ways to involve ourselves in the community, and found that this was a beneficial niche that didn't seem to be filled.”

By reaching out to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, Partners in Mission Food Bank and local subsidized day cares, Sunshine Celebrations is broadening their reach in hopes of providing birthday party services, free of charge, to those families who may not be able to afford parties otherwise.

O’Connor said these organizations already provide services to the demographic they are hoping to support with their parties. "We asked these organizations to promote us via social media or brochures to reach as many parents as possible," she said.

"In terms of determining need, fortunately, many of the places we have reached out to do this on their own," O'Connor continued. "However, in terms of individuals who contact us, we do not have a ‘vetting process’ as we ourselves are not qualified to determine sufficient financial need. For this reason, we mostly rely on our outreach partners, as well as the goodwill of the Kingston community to not take advantage of our services.”

With the pandemic, O’Connor says the group has yet to actually create a birthday party. The organization has created Birthday Kits to see families through until parties are allowed again. The kits include a fun meal, a cake, and personalized decorations to make an at home birthday as special as it can be.

As a new organization, Sunshine Celebrations is looking for funding to support their party ideas. They said their biggest fundraisers will be raffles of baskets of items donated by local businesses. O’Connor said they are always looking for businesses to work with for donations and sponsorship, and are currently coordinating their first raffle.

“As one of the main points of our organization is giving back to the Kingston community, we figured that simultaneously providing exposure for local businesses would be mutually beneficial,” O’Connor said. “Donations from businesses are collected and organized into baskets which we raffle off. Tickets are sold virtually.” Interested businesses can connect with them on their social media pages @sunshinecelebrationsqu

O’Connor said that over the past few days Sunshine Celebrations has received an outpouring of support from the community. In order to make it easy to donate to their organization they have set up a GoFundMe page.

While the organization does not have a website, you can learn more about them on their Facebook and Instagram pages, or reach out to them over email at sunshinecelebrations.qu@gmail.com

Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com