Zeta volunteers with The Birthday Fairy

Kelley Peters, Staff Writer

Zeta Tau Alpha, a sorority at the University of North Alabama, recently got the opportunity to volunteer with a local nonprofit organization called The Birthday Fairy. 

The Birthday Fairy was started by Holley Hamm who, after sponsoring a friend’s kindergarten class at Harlan Elementary School, saw the need present among children in school systems. 

“Never in a million years did I think I was going to start a nonprofit,” said Hamm. “I was just doing this for fun. Then, in May of this year, I told her I would do it again next year, and she told me that I needed to do the whole kindergarten if I was doing it again because the other kids in the other classes wanted to know why The Birthday Fairy didn’t come to their classes.”

Making a nonprofit organization from scratch was a daunting task, and many steps went into making The Birthday Fairy a reality. Hamm created a board for her organization, which consists of friends with similar passions for community service, and then submitted paperwork to be officially recognized as a nonprofit organization. Since being approved, The Birthday Fairy has been creating special experiences for children around the Shoals area.

“We provide birthday supplies to our Title 1 kindergartners and our special needs students kindergarten through fourth grade,” said Hamm. “When we take a school, we take the whole kindergarten. We have a total of about 190 children in all, counting our special needs kids. We provide them with homemade chair covers. We personalize them so it has their name on it. Then we send a little bag of party supplies, a banner, two reading books and other fun stuff for them like twisty crayons and coloring books. They also get backpacks from The Children’s Place and bakery cupcakes to take home with them from Yummy’s Bakery in Florence.”

The Birthday Fairy provides birthday materials to three schools, but Hamm hopes to expand the organization’s reach in the future. To do this, she plans to increase the number of volunteers that participate. 

Zeta Tau Alpha got involved in volunteering with The Birthday Fairy through Kennedy Newby, a sorority member. Her boyfriend’s mother is on the board for the organization, and after learning about the mission of The Birthday Fairy, Newby decided to pitch the idea to her sorority. After coordinating with Zeta’s Philanthropy and Service Chair, Carly Seaton, volunteer efforts began. 

“It started out because they needed books, so I asked members to bring in level one readers, and I think we ended up gathering around 30 books,” said Seaton. “Then [Kennedy] brought up the idea of having a service day on our Zeta floor where girls could help them make chair covers for the birthday students.”

Members of Zeta who participated in this event were able to customize chair covers for students and put their own individual touch on each one. 

“My favorite part was toward the end, when we saw all of the chair covers that everybody made, because I thought that everyone did a really good job,” said Newby. “I’m excited for her to use them. I think all of the kids will really love them.” 

By creating a special celebration for local children’s birthdays, Zeta hopes to have a lasting impact on the children’s lives and their self-image. 

“I hope there’s a realization that these kids need a little happy in their lives,” said Seaton. “Maybe we think of community service as picking up trash or doing a donation drive, but getting to do a little thing for these kids that can change their outlook on school or on life is really important. They might think of things differently after being recognized for something as little as their birthday. It will help us to be more aware that there’s something bigger out there. Everyone has a different experience.” 

Hamm encourages anyone interested in getting involved with The Birthday Fairy to go to thebirthdayfairy.org or visit their Instagram, @the.birthday.fairy,  for more information.