DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) –A Duncan organization that works to let children know that they are loved and special is being recognized as one of the top nonprofits in the state of Oklahoma.
Beautiful Day of Stephens County started in August 2013 by throwing birthday celebrations each month for Duncan elementary school children. They have made it to the top 24 nonprofit organizations in consideration to receive an Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence Award. The organization is in the top three finalists for the community category.
The idea for Beautiful Day of Stephens County eventually grew into a greater purpose for two mothers and that purpose was change. Co-founder Michele Johnson says it came about after seeing multiple heinous crimes committed by young people from Stephens County during the summer of 2013.
"What can we do? What's going through these young people's minds? Why do they think this is okay? Has anybody ever sat across from them and told them that they have potential. That they can dream. That we love them," said Johnson.
Right now, each month they go to three elementary schools in Duncan to celebrate children's birthdays.
Co-founder Leah Miller says one of her fondest memories is of a first grader's reaction to the experience.
"So she was celebrated for the first time last year as a kindergartner and then she got up to the birthday table this year and she was just squealing with delight clasping her hands as only a first grader can show that kind of excitement and she said I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for this," said Miller.
Volunteers help to set up by decorating a table just like a birthday party would be with a table cloth and balloons. Miller says these celebrations aren't rocket science.
"Kind of the beauty of Beautiful Day is its simplicity. What we are doing is not super complicated. We're not building a rocket ship for each kid. We are really serving them a birthday meal," said Miller.
Each child also walks away with a custom-made birthday card and a Beautiful Day bracelet. For the next school year the celebrations will also spread to Comanche and Marlow Public Schools. Johnson and Miller say they want the celebrations to be something the children never forget.
"The day you were born was a Beautiful Day and your community sees you. You matter to your community and we have hopes for you. The community has hopes for you," said Miller.
"Whenever you meet a kid they don't forget you and so it's not just in the cafeteria where we get to know these kids. It's a baseball game. It's at Walmart," said Johnson.
The Oklahoma Nonprofit Excellence Awards will take place on April 9th in Tulsa at a dinner and reception. The winner of each of the eight categories will walk away with a $10,000 grant.