A Birthday Party with a Purpose

March 26, 2024

A Birthday Party with a Purpose

April is National Volunteer Month, and at JF&CS we could not transform lives without our dedicated volunteers. Last year, we highlighted several of these individuals, including Sugandha Rosenhaft. The owner of La Dee Da Art Studio in Sandy Springs has applied her artistic skills and creativity to working with our IDD clients in the Artist Collective over the last few years.

Along the way, Sugandha’s volunteering has set an example for her children, too. When we heard the incredible story of her daughter Samara’s 14th birthday party, we asked Sugandha to share the story in her own words. Her essay follows.

Samara’s 14th Birthday

by Sugandha Rosenhaft

When you’re in the party planning business, there is always a celebration of some kind going on. Over the past 13 years, I’ve hosted countless elaborate, curated events for my kids, and I must admit- some have been a bit over the top! From birthdays to Valentine’s Day and Halloween, to not so casual hangouts, end of school year celebrations, to Friendsgiving- my family loves to celebrate!

This past year, my daughter Samara turned fourteen. Because she is a bit past the traditional party age, I thought that now would be a good time for her to start looking at the true gifts and abundance in life- the things that go beyond materialistic ‘stuff.’ That’s when we came up with the idea of a “Service Birthday”.

I volunteer at JF&CS, most often with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Services (IDDS). Once we identified that we were going to host Samara’s “Service Birthday”, I knew we wanted the party to benefit the agency. I reached out to my wonderful friends Lauren Harris, Megan Koziel and Abby Frantz at JF&CS and they were very excited about the idea of teens giving back! We worked with Lauren, Megan and Abby to identify activities that would benefit the IDDS clients and invited 15 of Samara’s friends to join us. On the invite, we requested that friends bring in canned goods and non-perishables to donate to the Kosher Food Pantry.

donations for the Kosher Food Pantry

Originally, I had planned to host the party at home, but the thought of 15 or so teens in my house sounded a bit intimidating, even for me. We decided to host at my art studio, La Dee Da. Since Samara’s birthday is in December, we kicked off the party by making holiday cards, then broke the girls into three stations: cupcake decorating, slime, and sensory calm jars.

For the cupcake decorating, I set out a fun array of icing in piping bags with lots of sprinkles, edible glitter and cupcake toppings. Some of the girls got very creative with their piping skills! For the slime station, Samara chose a fluffy/cloud slime recipe as this is the most fun to create, and we kept the slime unscented and did not add glitter, as we were unsure of any sensitivities with the clients. The calm jars were my favorite: they appeal to the visual, tactile, and auditory senses all at once, making them particularly effective for self-soothing. Once the girls had finished their activities, we enjoyed ice cream floats and a sundae bar. It was a bit of a sugar fest with all the various sweet indulgences, but what’s a party without a little sugar?

calm jars for our IDD clients

This was one of the sweetest and most gratifying events I have planned. It was truly beautiful to see the girls all work together to do some good, while also having fun! Samara ended the evening with a smile on her face and said how happy she was that their contributions were going to put a smile on someone else’s face! As her mom, it was beautiful to show the kids that a little act of service can spread tremendous joy for someone else.

Samara, left, with a friend

There are so many wonderful organizations/churches/temples and food pantries with needs. It doesn’t have to be just over the holidays, you can give back anytime of the year! "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Tikkun olam - Repair the world. Spread the light!

Thanks so much, Sugandha and Samara. If you are interested in hosting your own “Service Birthday” or volunteering in another way, reach out to our Volunteer Engagement Manager Megan Koziel at mkoziel@jfcsatl.org