Community Connections Schools and Youth

Local teen brings birthday joy to sick children

The kids at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital don’t get to go home for their birthdays. That means they miss out on the decorations, fun and friends that children cherish about celebrating this big day.

Project Birthday Box: a ‘small’ idea from a local teen makes a big difference
But thanks to Project Birthday Box, some of the children at LPCH can still celebrate their special day just like they were at home.

Ember Lin-Sperry, founder of Project Birthday Box

Ember Lin-Sperry, founder of Project Birthday Box

This nonprofit organization, founded by Gunn HS junior Ember Lin-Sperry in 2015, collects leftover birthday supplies and favors, wraps them in specially designed birthday party kits and delivers them to the children at LPCH.

The unique and fun kits, organized by theme, include bubbles, streamers, plates, napkins, cups, coloring books, crayons, and many other items that kids need to make a birthday festive.

“It’s fun to put the Project Birthday Box packages together, and hopefully it will help make the kids feel special,” Ember said. “If it can distract the children for an hour of birthday fun with their family, it’s worth it. That’s the goal. ”

A Girl Scout project turns into a nonprofit
The idea for Project Birthday Box began when Ember was a Girl Scout during her elementary days at Ohlone. The girls made birthday boxes for LPCH to earn Bronze Awards and Volunteer Badges.

About a year ago, when heard from her mom, a nurse at LPCH that the supply of birthday donations had run low, Ember remembered her Girl Scout project and had an idea. Guessing that other families had garages full of leftover party supplies, Ember started Project Birthday Box with the vision of bringing arty kits to LPCH and, eventually, to other local hospitals.

Supply Drive at Ohlone
After getting permission from the principal Nicki Smith, Ember began by puting up signs at Ohlone Elementary School asking parents to donate any left over birthday celebration supplies. In just three weeks, Ember had enough bubbles,img_0608 favors and party hats- most in new packaging- to fill a mountain of Project Birthday Box kits. The donation bins had to be emptied multiple times to accommodate all the goodies that families brought to Ohlone.

An official nonprofit gets off the ground
Project Birthday Box is now an official non-profit501(c)(3) organization that Ember runs out of her Palo Alto home with help of her family and friends. Ember has applied and received grants numerous grants to fund Project Birthday Box, including one from Gunn at Your Service, which supports students to do community service projects.

Best fundraising idea ever? A babysitting night
Ember also organized a babysitting night to raise money for Project Birthday Box. She recruited a bunch of friends, used a free space at the United Universalist Church of Palo Alto, solicited food donations from California Pizza Kitchen and invited parents to bring their kids for a night of fun, with all proceeds going to Project Birthday Box.  The fundraiser was a huge success and everyone had a great time, including the babysitters.

Teens get involved with Project Birthday Box

local teens love organizing the kits for Project Birthday Box

Do you have extra party supplies in your garage? Make a child’s day special by donating them to Project Birthday Box

Other local teens in Palo Alto are just as excited as Ember about Project Birthday Box. Ember gathers a group of friends at her house once a month to pack up the birthday kits, and a fellow student named Gary Wu made the eye-catching Project Birthday Box logo. Other teens have helped with fundraisers, publicity and more.

Girl Scout Troops Help Out
Project Birthday Box was born out of a Girl Scout project and local troops are still some of the most active volunteers for the organization. Girl Scouts from as far as Sunnyvale have earned their community service badge by packing birthday kits and organizing the supplies. One important task is cutting and rolling party streamers into the correct amount to decorate one hospital room. “It’s so wonderful to have this involvement because my inspiration for Project Birthday Box came from a Girl Scout activity,” Ember said.

How to get involved
Project Birthday Box welcomes donations of unused party supplies or funds. For more information about how to get involved, send Ember email at:

“If it can distract the children for an hour of birthday fun with their family, it’s worth it.”
Love this article?

Check out this one about a local teen who’s helping send wheelchairs to Africa, or this one about a group of teens who run a charity soccer camp in Palo Alto every summer. Love these engaged young people!

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About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.