As his wife’s 40th birthday approached, Rob Brewer knew he wanted to do something memorable for Lorna.
He planned a surprise party complete with purple streamers and paper plates. He ordered a cake and swore their friends to secrecy.
But the biggest surprise was the gift he chose. He created a Lorna’s Surprise Party fundraiser to benefit the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
The couple have three daughters, Dot, 5; Lucy, 3; and Winnie, 1. Brewer said, “I got the idea because we did fundraisers for our daughters’ second birthdays.”
They’d collected blankets for the nursery at one of those parties, so with Lorna’s birthday looming, Brewer clicked on the organization’s website.
“I saw a Gift Your Birthday link,” he said. And just like that he’d found the perfect gift for his wife.
He said, “It was so easy to set up. I created a Facebook invitation and set a goal of $400.”
The Gift Your Birthday program launched Jan. 9 – the nursery’s 26th birthday, Vanessa Behan executive director Amy Knapton said. The organization has eight fundraising events throughout the year, so this seemed like a good way to continue generating funds, without adding another event to already full calendars.
And the ongoing need is great. Staffed by trained house parents and numerous volunteers, the nursery provides care for children from birth to age 6, and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In addition to providing children a safe place to stay, the nursery offers parenting classes, crisis counseling and basic baby essentials for families in need.
“We serve 4,000 kids annually, and last year we had to turn away 3,000 kids,” Knapton said. The nursery receives no federal or state funds; it relies solely on community support.
Brewer grew excited as the funds starting coming in. He’d hidden the Facebook posts from his wife, but friends still reacted with skepticism. He laughed. “Everybody said you’re crazy for trying to do a surprise on Facebook.”
He also posted links and updates via Twitter. Less than a week before her birthday, he’d reached two-thirds of his goal, and Lorna was still in the dark. Then he got an email from the nursery requesting a photo of his family. Staffers had seen the attention the birthday link was getting and wanted to let people know about the program during their KHQ Oct. 12 telethon.
He sent the photo off. “I wasn’t worried,” he said, grinning. “We don’t have a TV!”
His confidence proved justified. The day of the party, Oct. 6, Lorna returned from shopping and saw one of her daughter’s friends playing outside. “I thought, ‘Oh, we must be having a surprise playdate – that’s cool,’ ” she recalled, laughing. “I walked in and the dining room was full of people, and then I saw my friend Kelly – she lives in California! Then I started crying.”
After she composed herself Brewer told her about her gift. At that point the surprise party fundraiser had generated more than $600.
No gift could have pleased her more. Lorna said, “I’m 40. Obviously I don’t need birthday presents. I don’t need anything! But I know the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery has so many needs.”
And she agrees with Knapton who pointed out the children served at the nursery belong to all of us. “They are our kids,” Knapton said.
Lorna’s Surprise Party fundraiser has raised $855 and the link is still active. The generosity of her friends and family amazes her. She said, “I really felt honored. Every gift they gave was like a gift of love to me.”