Spreading Joy and Inclusion, One Birthday at a Time

Daily Point of Light # 7750 Feb 19, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Dana Ridgeway. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

In the heart of Birmingham, Alabama, Dana Ridgeway brings joy and compassion to her volunteer work with The Birthday Giving Program. As the chapter president for the area, Dana’s mission goes beyond mere celebration; it’s about affirming the self-worth of people across all walks of life who are affected by poverty, addiction, abuse and more. By providing birthday bags and coordinating celebrations, Dana and her team ensure that everyone, from children to veterans, feels valued and honored on their special day. 

Dana’s role involves not just the assembly of birthday bags but also the creation of moments that remind recipients of their dignity and humanity. This program treats each birthday as an opportunity to honor the inherent worth of individuals who are too often overlooked or forgotten by society. Dana dedicates 5-10 hours each month to meticulously preparing birthday bags for residents at Oak Knoll Rehabilitation Center, ensuring each one is filled with joy and tailored to various seasons and themes.

Beyond the local impact, Dana’s role as a community outreach manager extends her influence nationwide. She works tirelessly to connect volunteers with nonprofit agencies, expanding the reach of The Birthday Giving Program and fostering a nationwide community of compassion and celebration. 

Dana believes in the power of celebrating birthdays and making people feel seen and special./Courtesy Dana Ridgeway

Read more about Dana’s volunteerism and how she helps inspire a culture of empathy and celebration. 

Tell us about your volunteer role. 

I am a chapter president in the Birmingham, Alabama, area. I partner with Oak Knoll Health and Rehabilitation Center to distribute birthday bags to the residents. I also am a community outreach manager, so I help people across the country partner with organizations to deliver birthday bags. 

Why is this issue so important to you? 

Birthdays are the only day out of the year that celebrates your entire existence. That is a big deal to me. It’s important because sometimes people that we partner with aren’t in situations that allow them to celebrate their birthdays in a traditional way. Receiving the bags is a nice reminder that they are special and someone cares about them.  

What inspired you to get started with this initiative? 

Ever since I was a child, I have always loved celebrating people’s birthdays. I love seeing people happy and I love giving gifts, so The Birthday Giving Program was a great fit for me. It also is flexible, which is important since I work full time, and I’m a mother and wife. 

What are your long-term plans or goals for the organization? 

I want to partner with the activities coordinator at Oak Knoll to start having in person birthday parties for the residents. This is an initiative she is working on, and I’m excited to see how it pans out in the future. I also want to continue helping people in other states find partnerships. It would be cool to help someone in all 50 states.   

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work? 

The most rewarding part of my work is knowing that I made someone’s birthday a bit brighter. This makes me happy, as I know some of the people we take the bags to are in some unfortunate situations. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer? 

I have learned that life is truly a gift that should be celebrated. No birthday should be taken for granted.  

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about? 

It’s important for people to get involved with causes they care about because it allows them to contribute their time to things that are actually meaningful to them. This creates a sense of fulfillment and connection that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It makes the task actually rewarding. 

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering? 

I had a boss who would always say, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” I think this quote aligns with volunteering. Find something you truly enjoy doing and simply just start doing it. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Dana? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

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