See why The Birthday Party Project’s Paige Chenault is Toyota’s latest Mother of Invention
by Gefen Kusin-Kline, Special Contributor | March 7, 2019
Every child deserves a birthday party.
That statement has been the driving principle of Dallas-based entrepreneur Paige Chenault’s life for more than seven years.
Why? Because the constant change and uncertainty for those facing homelessness can be a traumatizing experience, especially for children, who are often deprived of simple childhood pleasures such as opening gifts, playing games and blowing out candles at their own birthday party.
Which led Chenault to create The Birthday Party Project, a nonprofit that throws birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters. While the project was originally born and based in Dallas, it has since spread to 15 cities and has thrown approximately 8,000 parties to date.
In honor of her dedication to spreading joy to underserved and overlooked children across the country, Chenault was named the 23rd Toyota Mother of Invention at the 2018 Women in the World Dallas Salon.
About Toyota’s Mothers of Invention
Since its inception in 2012, the Toyota Mothers of Invention program has proudly provided grants to 25 women-led companies doing big things to help their communities and the world at large.
“This International Women’s Day, and throughout the year, we are proud to support women entrepreneurs and innovators like Paige and her team at The Birthday Party Project to champion solutions that drive positive change in the world,” says Nancy Inouye, national media director at Toyota Motor North America.
In addition to monetary funding, Toyota Mothers of Invention program also provides critical networking opportunities and access to intellectual capital to help these businesses and organizations continue to grow and thrive.
How The Birthday Party Project was born
In 2008, a pregnant Chenault was looking for inspiration for her future daughter’s birthday party in the pages of a magazine. Her excited daydreams quickly faded, however, as she shifted her attention to a separate issue, where she saw images of impoverished Haitian children. The juxtaposition between the extravagant birthday parties and the swollen bellies of the starving children was too stark for Chenault to ignore.
Over the next four years, those haunting images never strayed far from Chenault’s mind. In 2012, she left her successful career as an event planner to start The Birthday Party Project full-time, with the goal of bringing happiness to the overlooked and underserved children of Dallas. Chenault threw her first party at Family Gateway, an emergency shelter in downtown Dallas that provides stability and supportive services for children and families affected by homelessness. Soon, she expanded The Birthday Party to Genesis Women Shelter, and then the parties continued throughout the region.
Creating lasting joy for children in need
Today, 13 D-FW homeless shelter facilities work with Birthday Party Project volunteers to throw monthly birthday parties for children.
But it isn’t the planning and logistics that make these parties so successful. It’s the love, dedication and passion that the volunteers called “Party Planners” and “Birthday Enthusiasts” put into each birthday party. And the most important factor isn’t a cake — it’s consistency, and offering children the stability and magic they so desperately need.
“We like to say that our parties are so much more than a celebration, but they are a loud exclamation point that children matter,” Chenault says.
This is the crux of the Birthday Party Project’s mission. Children affected by homelessness don’t often get to experience the happiness of a carefree childhood. Even if the party lasts for just an hour each month, the excitement it generates beforehand and the joy that continues afterward are priceless.
The profound impact The Birthday Project has had on its community prompted Toyota to recognize Paige Chenault as a Mother of Invention. With this recognition also came a grant of $50,000, which will go a long way toward strengthening the Birthday Party Project’s efforts. The Birthday Party Project’s momentum shows no signs of slowing down, and Chenault expects to expand to more cities as more and more volunteers across the country get involved to bring a little magic to homeless children in their communities.
“So much of innovation happens at the ground level,” Chenault says. “When we start to impact our community, that’s where the change really happens. And then it starts to build and grow from there. And how amazing is it that Toyota recognizes that too?”
To learn more about The Birthday Party Project and find out how you can get involved, visit their website at thebirthdaypartyproject.org. And to find out more about Toyota Mothers of Invention and discover what other great work is being done, visit toyotamoi.com.
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