Cause & Effect: Team Celebrate in El Dorado County
Lizzie Allison likes to say she has two full-time jobs. She’s a sophomore at St. Francis Catholic High School and the president of Team Celebrate, a nonprofit that makes birthdays happy for foster kids. Yes, when she’s not in class, this 16-year-old El Dorado Hills resident runs a business.
The desire to help foster kids germinated a few years ago when Allison played an orphan in the musical Little Orphan Annie. As a child of a close, loving family, she wanted to help kids who don’t have parents. After delving into research, she was alarmed to find that most trafficking victims are former foster kids, and half of girls in foster care become pregnant by age 19. She knew she couldn’t make an impact on these larger issues—at least not yet—but one smaller bit of information struck her: Foster children often don’t get birthday parties. “These kids deserve a special party, one day of joy they may remember the rest of their lives,” she says. “I thought this was a meaningful way I could help.”
With support from her parents, Allison set up Team Celebrate in April 2017, as a nonprofit governed by a teen board and an adult advisory board. The organization serves children in foster care in El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento Counties, and through the teen board they inspire their peers to give back to the community. Allison does all of the planning and outreach, including talking to groups about her mission. One selling point is that modest donations can bring a big smile to a child. In just nine months, the group has distributed 300 birthday boxes. In November, Allison received the Youth in Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals California Capital Chapter.
Team Celebrate offers three ways to serve:
• Make a birthday box. Each box, based on a theme the child chooses, provides complete supplies for a party of eight: plates, napkins, cake mix and frosting, candles, decorations, games, snacks, a handmade card with bright, positive messages, a pre-addressed thank you card and, of course, a gift. Donations of full boxes or individual items are welcome.
• Host a wrapping party. This is fun for groups, such as Girl Scouts, schools, and churches. The participants work together as a team to wrap gifts and assemble several boxes.
• Adopt a birthday. For the person who has everything, here’s a new take: Ask your friends and family to donate party supplies, gift cards, and other birthday box items; or donate money to Team Celebrate in your name. You’ll be celebrating your birthday twice!
With thousands of foster kids in the region, Allison is looking ahead to a long involvement in foster care and hopes to become a lawyer or legislator to help reform foster care laws. “We need more people in the lives of foster children,” she says, “so they are not just a number. We need more foster families to step up and take these kids in.” teamcelebrate.org
By Linda Holderness // photos by DANTE FONTANA