Sweet Celebrations began as an answer to a need that was realized by Beth Brockling and Shalei Taylor. Beth became Shalei’s Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri in 2010. Nearing Shalei’s 15th birthday, she and her family had lost their home and were living in shelters and motels.
On Shalei’s 15th birthday, the family had nowhere to stay. The best solution available to them was to sleep in the family car, in the bitter cold. Shalei called to share the news with Beth. After hanging up with Shalei, Beth quickly sent an SOS to her family and friends on Facebook, asking for help for shelter for Shalei’s family.
Beth’s friends immediately came together and donated funds to get Shalei and her family into temporary shelter. Many also recognized the importance of making sure Shalei’s birthday was still celebrated by donating funds specifically for a birthday celebration. Beth, her children, and Shalei celebrated her 15th birthday that evening with all of Shalei’s favorite things to do, such as going to Pizza Street and shopping for some winter clothes for the upcoming season. Because of the generosity of Beth’s friends and family, enough money was donated to help get Shalei and her family into permanent housing.
The following year as Shalei, Beth and her children were celebrating Shalei’s 16th birthday they reflected on the importance of her 15th birthday and her journey since. Shalei shared what the experience did for her, not just in those days but the long-lasting effects of such generosity. She said it showed her love, it increased her self-esteem, and it made her feel secure. This gave Beth an idea—why not help other children in shelters celebrate their birthdays?
Together with Shalei and Beth and friends and family, Sweet Celebrations began!