In January, Paige Chenault celebrated a different kind of birthday.
It wasn’t her own or her daughter Lizzie’s, but for her other baby, The Birthday Party Project, which turned 4 years old at the turn of the new year. TBPP is the nonprofit Chenault founded with a mission to throw exceptional celebrations once a month for homeless children in shelters. The irony of a birthday party for The Birthday Party Project is not lost on her.
“We have one fundraiser every year in Dallas, so why not use it to throw our own birthday party?” asks Chenault, who grew the organization from incubation to inspiration in major cities around the country. “It was ‘Saturday Night Live’-themed,” she reveals. “Eight hundred of our closest supporters and friends dressed up like every SNL character you could imagine, and we raised a record amount of money for the organization.”
Those funds will go toward bringing birthday parties to homeless children in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New York City and San Francisco. Right now, TBPP throws 20 parties per month. With the money raised, it will be able to do 36 parties per month in 2016. The funds will also help to launch new TBPP outposts in Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and more. “Those communities need joy,” says Chenault. “We have people on the ground there willing and able to [get started].”
In a nondescript building north of downtown Dallas, Chenault moves through rows and rows of shelves housing hundreds of unwrapped kids’ toys and clear bins, each properly labeled, organized and brimming with decorations. She is at home among event decor and party props, having been an event planner for a decade before starting The Birthday Party Project.
“I did love being part of people’s celebrations and special moments,” she says. “I considered it a great privilege and had wonderful clients.” However, with a close-knit client base built exclusively on referrals came an immense responsibility for Chenault to say yes more than she should have. “I would book between 20 and 40 events per year and work all week and weekends too. It was hard to find a balance,” she admits.
The year Chenault was pregnant, she had 32 events on her calendar. Although she was thrilled she had turned her event company into a multimillion-dollar business, that difficult year became the catalyst that inspired her to follow new dreams. “I’m a people-pleaser, and that comes with a great deal of personal sacrifice,” she says, pausing to laugh before asking, “Why are women like that?”