You Should Know: Megs Yunn
The founder of Beverly’s Birthdays is doling out cheer 365 days a year.
photo by keith bloom
For Megs Yunn, birthday parties mean more than cake and presents.
Yunn started the nonprofit organization Beverly’s Birthdays in January 2012 to give birthday celebrations to children and families in need. She got the idea when she met an 11-year-old girl named Beverly at an afterschool center in March 2011.
Yunn, 30, of Irwin, was helping Beverly with her reading homework. Part of the assignment called for using the word “accustomed” in a sentence. Yunn asked the girl, “Beverly, at birthday parties, people are accustomed to eating what?” Beverly’s reply: She’d never had a birthday party or her own slice of birthday cake.
“It was really one of those ‘A-ha’ moments for me. I honestly felt like I got the wind knocked out of me,” Yunn says. “Driving home that night, I just cried.”
Three months later, Yunn came across the “BE BIG in Your Community Contest,” sponsored by American Family Insurance. The contest asked entrants for pitches on how to make his or her community a better place and offered $2,500 to the first-place winner. Yunn entered her idea.
Months later, Yunn won the starter grant for her idea, selected from more than 1,000 pitches.
To find birthday boys and girls, Beverly’s Birthdays (beverlysbirthdays.org) partners with 43 area agencies, connecting with shelters, transitional housing programs, family-support centers, schools and general social-service agencies.
“[Families in need] go without basic necessities every single day, so a birthday for them is a luxury,” Yunn says.
The organization has raised more than $500,000 for presents and other operational expenses for its “birthday cheer programs.” It has been able to provide more than 5,000 birthday experiences — and countless memories.
For Yunn, the only number that matters is the age the birthday boy or girl is turning. She knows the true present is the smile on a child’s face rather than the contents of a paper-wrapped box.
“If for one day we can be this gesture for these families and their children, and in that moment they know that they’re loved and they’re important, then that’s what we’re all about,” Yunn says. “And, you know, it’s a privilege to be able to do what I do.”
What are some of the more interesting parties that you’ve hosted?
I got an email one afternoon that said, ‘Help.’ And it was from a mom [who] was in a domestic-violence situation and was homeless, and her son’s fourth birthday was approaching. And he was convinced that he was having a Batman birthday party because he was turning 4 and that’s the type of thing a soon-to-be 4-year-old would think was going to happen for him …
We were able to give him a really awesome Batman birthday cake and a Batman birthday present, and it was just wonderful. And the mom sent a fabulous email explaining how Beverly’s Birthdays is more than just a birthday present for a child. It’s not only making that child feel special, but it also is a help to those families and her personally.
What is the best birthday present you have received?
My 30th birthday was really great. My husband threw a huge surprise party, and that was really special. And then for my 26th birthday, I got engaged. So I guess probably the 26th trumps the 30th. But from my childhood, a birthday that stands out to me is [when] I went to see “The Little Mermaid” when it came out in theaters. I was 6, and we all went to Eat’n Park afterwards.
Do you remember what you ordered?
Oh my goodness! Probably a cheeseburger, I would assume.
Do you have a favorite party food?
Oh, I’m a big appetizer [person]. . . If I could spend my life eating dip, I would be happy. I’m not actually a cake person. I’m a big ice-cream cake person, or a cookie cake, but I’m not the cake-and-ice-cream girl at parties.
Do you have any birthday traditions in your family?
The concept of Classroom Cheer [one of the organization’s programs, which provides pre-packaged treat bags for children to give out to their classmates] was actually born out of a tradition in my family. A lot of times, you’re allowed to bring in a treat [to school] on your birthday. My birthday is right before Christmas, and so I was always allowed to bring in those Hostess Christmas tree cakes … And still, to this day, I always get a box of Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes for my birthday. My mom always did it for me and then when I got married, my husband took over that responsibility.
Birthdays aren’t about the gifts. They’re about someone knowing that you love them, and that your presence here on Earth is worth being celebrated.