Charity gives children ‘hope’ – and special birthdays

children image
Photo courtesy of Candles for Hope

Every child deserves to feel special on his or her birthday. Unfortunately, there are many children who are living in shelters that may not be able to have the birthday they deserve.

That’s where Candles for Hope comes in.

Candles for Hope, a nonprofit organization based in Smithtown, Long Island, was founded by members of EXIT Realty. They seek to provide birthday parties for displaced children in the community.

“A few colleagues and I were inspired to start this work because we believe children should all have a birthday party,” says Susan Hamblen, President of Candles for Hope. “We believe that our place in the world matters and we should give back and make a difference. We were fortunate enough to come together to form this organization and provide birthday parties for children who are living in homeless shelters.”

Hamblen and her colleagues were inspired to start Candles for Hope after hearing about the selfless work of another.

“We learned of a story from the other side of the country of a gentleman who was doing birthday parties for homeless children, completely anonymous to the child,” says Jeff Mistretta, Vice President of Candles for Hope. “Once we heard about that, we were so grateful for his work and we really knew that there was a need on Long Island to be doing the same exact type of thing.”

On March 21, Candles for Hope hosted a kick-off event that drew in over 200 guests. By the end of the event, Candles for Hope had raised $23,000 from the proceeds, $14,000 in pledges and 25 fully- sponsored birthday parties.

Right now, Candles for Hope has two chapters, one in Smithtown and one in the Bronx. The organization hopes to expand to Queens soon. To help them achieve their goal, the Star Network is donating 100 percent of the raffle proceeds from the Excellence in Queens Real Estate and Development Awards on June 14 to Candles for Hope.

“Our main goal is truly to open up several chapters across Long Island and, maybe someday, across the country,” says Mistretta.

There are many ways that you can help Candles for Hope, including hosting gift drives so children can receive presents, sponsoring birthday parties and by donating directly to the organization. To donate to Candles for Hope, visit candlesforhope.org/donate_now.

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