Residents at Casa Youth Shelter received a unique surprise back in August. Dozens of chocolate cupcakes, a cluster of colorful balloons, and a bounty of gifts showed up at the shelter in honor of a very special birthday, along with a card:
“Dear Casa Kids,
Today is my daughter’s 17th birthday. She’s not here to have a party, because she died when she was a baby. So I want to celebrate her birthday by using her memory for kindness. I have bought gifts for all of you that I hope you will enjoy and chocolate cupcakes and balloons to make it fun. I want you all to know that you are cared for. I think about all of you and I know that God loves you. I hope you have a fun night.
Love, Kirsten Spreitzer”
Birthdays are an important custom here at Casa Youth Shelter (each resident here is celebrated on their birthday), and Kirsten Spreitzer honored her daughter’s memory in a truly meaningful way. Qualities like wisdom and self-confidence come with age and we commemorate those things for our youth. Residents quickly got to work on hand-crafting thank you cards for Kirsten. When she received the box full of handwritten notes, she sent the following heartwarming email to Robin, our Executive Director:
“Well, my daughter passed away when she was just a baby, 17 years ago, and I have always wanted to do something like this to celebrate her birthday. But money was always so tight for my son and me; I could barely afford our basic needs. When my daughter’s birthday came on Monday, and the idea just hit me suddenly, and I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for the day to end. I got home, made a quick dinner for David and me, and told him what we had to do. We went shopping for the presents, then hit the dollar store for the gift bags and decorations, and we went to Ralph’s to look for a cake. When I saw the chocolate cupcakes with purple butterflies on top, they just spoke to me. I have never felt that before (I had to focus very hard on the present, and not the loss — never thinking about what she would like, what she would say, what she would do, etc.) but when I saw those cupcakes, I knew she would love them. It was really a fun moment for me! And I am so thankful that I have a wonderful job now that allows me to give a little to others!
“I have not cried in the last several years, because I really did finish my grieving, and I feel peace about her passing by now. It was just really special for me to get to bless the Casa kids on her birthday, and I didn’t feel sad, other than feeling sad for the kids who can’t be with their families. Anyway, I was thinking I would probably get an email from you afterward letting me know how the kids enjoyed the gifts. I was so pleasantly surprised when I opened my mail today and saw all those cards. But I barely got a glimpse of one, and I just started sobbing! I was a blubbering mess for a good 30 minutes. The cards from the kids just touched me so deeply. I really wasn’t expecting that, and it was such an emotional experience.
“So, thank you for sending them to me. Please let them know it meant so much to me! I’m so glad I could take them gifts, and I just hope they know that I think about them and pray for them. Thank you!!!”
Kirsten’s altruism is unmatched and is a shining example of the kinds of things that our volunteers and benefactors do to support our residents. We are truly touched and appreciative. She reminds us all that, like Casa Youth Shelter, birthdays are a new start, a fresh beginning, a time to pursue new endeavors with new goals and a chance to move forward with confidence and courage.