Arizona’s largest foster support and resource center for foster kids and the Department of Child Safety are coming together today to make hundreds of birthday packages for foster kids.

Currently there are nearly 17,000 kids in the foster care system in Arizona alone, so the need is great.

“Today is a joyful day,” said Dan Shufelt, President and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, Inc. “We’ve got people here today packaging up birthday presents for us for kids in foster care.

It all starts with requests they receive from foster families throughout the Valley.

“In this case, little Lilana is turning 9 and she loves dolls and Barbies and coloring books,” said Shufelt.

Volunteers then go back and try to find those things in the warehouse, gift wrap them and build Liliana a birthday package.

“Soccer balls, footballs, things like that… Legos are very popular…” said Cynthia Weiss with the Arizona Department of Child Safety. “…and the bikes are very cool, everyone wants a new bike.”

“When they’re available to us, we accept new bike donations to help these kids,” said Shufelt.

Everything they give out in this program is brand new.

“We don’t want to give out second-hand toys,” he said. “The bikes are all brand new, we give helmets out with every one of them.”

“Some of our younger kids have never experienced a birthday party and so this is a way for the community to let them know that they’re loved,” said Weiss.

“There are over 17,000 kids in foster care today, who need our love and support and need the community to gather around us and help these kids,” said Shufelt.

Arizona Helping Hands provides everything from clothing, to diapers and personal care packages. They also provide beds and cribs to foster families.

“We provide birthday gifts for kids from 1 through 18… for the older kids, we’re providing gift cards and rolling duffle bags and a book about the things you can see throughout the world, the things that you can do and be,” said Shufelt. “So a message of hope and positivity for these kids who have had such a tough time.”

They still need help gathering more goodies for current and future birthday gift needs.

“We’re especially in need right now of items for kids from 8 to 12… the craft sets, the Legos, the sports equipment to help celebrate those age groups,” said Shufelt. “Our inventories are really low for that.”

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