Sandra & Emory Story

Surprising Three Brothers with Belated Birthday Bash: A Heartwarming Tale of Community Support and Celebration

Children’s birthdays are more than just a time for balloons, gifts, and cake. They are a time when parents, friends and family members can joyfully celebrate the fact that their special someone is in their lives.

Birthday celebrations can send the message to kids that they are cherished and valued. They can also create a lifetime of meaningful memories.

Chesterfield parents, Sandra and Christian, wanted birthday plans for their three boys (M.J., age 6, George, 8 and Brooks, 10) to be extra special last December.

M.J. has experienced several complex medical challenges over the years that have made it difficult for M.J. and the family to travel. Since all three boys’ birthdays fall within a few weeks of each other in December and January, Sandra and Christian decided to save and plan for a family trip to Universal as an extra special birthday celebration.

After spending only one day in the theme park, though, M.J. became sick. He had to go to the Emergency room and was ultimately admitted to the hospital in Orlando.

The family’s birthday celebratory trip was immediately cut short. While the local hospital generously shared balloons and birthday wishes for M.J. and his brothers, this was far from the celebration the boys and their parents had hoped for.

Brooks and George never complained. They have grown accustomed to M.J.’s unique medical needs and understood that their trip and their birthday plans needed to end early and abruptly.

The older brothers ended up flying back to Richmond on their own to be in the care of their grandmother, while Sandra and Christian stayed in Orlando with M.J.

Thankfully, M.J. was discharged from the hospital in Florida, but it wasn’t long before he was back in the Emergency room here in Richmond.

As the days and weeks went on, the idea of a birthday celebration for the boys was far from anyone’s mind.

Except for Carissa Henry, Resource Coordinator for Better2gether.

Carissa had been in touch with the family daily and learned about their challenging and frightening experiences. While she couldn’t turn back the clock to make the family trip happen again, Carissa wanted to do what she could to support the family and provide a joyful and meaningful birthday celebration for the boys.

That’s when Carissa jumped into action. She reached out to several community partners to coordinate resources and support.

First, Carissa connected with Lasagna Love, a global nonprofit organization that connects neighbors for meal deliveries, to ensure that the family could enjoy a homecooked meal in the midst of their stressful return to Richmond.

She also reached out to CelebrateRVA, a local nonprofit organization that provides birthday celebrations for underserved families. They generously provided a gathering space, pizza, cake, and supplies for a party for the three brothers.

Then, Carissa connected with Pass the Bricks, a nonprofit whose mission is to give children more access to play by re-purposing Legos into “new” sets. Pass the Bricks provided large Lego sets for each of the boys, as well as Lego gift bags for party guests, and Legos for open-ended Lego play at the party.

This celebration was a complete surprise for Brooks, George and M.J. They had no idea this was being planned and were genuinely excited to be able to celebrate their belated birthdays with family and friends.

While Sandra and Christian never asked for any help, they were truly grateful for the compassion, support and resource coordination provided by Carissa and Better2gether to experience a celebration of their three sons that will always be remembered.

“They had an amazing time. It was a joy-filled day,” shares Sandra. “I am so grateful for the love and support given to the boys. I did not have the bandwidth to organize it, but I could totally see while (we were) there, how much they needed it.”