Operation Birthday Wish set to expand

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

A community service project started at Chilton County High School’s FOCUS club could soon be adopted by service clubs across the state.

CCHS graduate Ada Ruth Huntley presented information about Operation Birthday Wish to Focus facilities from across the state during a training in Clanton on July 11.

“It is a program where I am working hand-in-hand with my county’s Department of Human Resources to ensure that every child in foster care gets a birthday present every year,” Huntley said. “I did this in response to hearing about my mom’s struggles … she had to be in and out of the foster care system throughout her childhood … she told me sometimes she didn’t get a birthday present.”

Huntley developed the program while she was the CCHS FOCUS president.

“I’m thankful to FOCUS for allowing me to launch the community service project,” Huntley said.

Focus state facilitator Sue Jones encouraged the leaders present to adopt the program for their counties.

“I personally was just touched by it and I think this is one of the best community service projects that your FOCUS program can implement,” Jones said.

Huntley said having a successful Operation Birthday Wish begins with having a student or group of students agree to lead and maintain the project. Huntley said organizing the project was not easy, but it was “so rewarding.”

Leaders would then contact the county Department of Human Resources about getting information needed to determine a good gift for the child. Recruiting donors was also listed as a major aspect of the program. Huntley suggested using social media to find donors and setting up talks with community groups. She said she asked for donations of $35 to $50. Huntley said organization was the key to make sure each child received a gift.

Presents are collected by the FOCUS students and delivered to DHR.  The project served 120 children last year.

Since Ada Ruth Huntley has graduated, her sister Sarah Beth Huntley will be taking over Operation Birthday Wish within CCHS FOCUS. She said starting next year the students will be working on getting a book for each child to accompany their birthday gift.

According to the organization’s mission statement, “FOCUS promotes school and community partnerships for the prevention of adolescent risk behaviors identified in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey.”