HOMETOWN HERO: Jill Soares

By: Alexandra Cowley 

acowley@abc6.com 

Do you remember what birthday parties were like growing up? I can remember the celebrations were everything to me. The balloons, the cake, the presents, all your friends. The memories. A child’s birthday is hands down their favorite day of the year. But what if that child is homeless and in a shelter? Well, that’s where Jill Soares comes in.

"Happy birthday to  you," the party sings to the birthday boys and girls. 

It’s the song that feels natural on birthdays. Most of us have sung it or had it sung to us dozens of times. But it’s not so familiar to these shy faces. That’s because these kids are homeless. Living at a temporarily shelter in Rhode Island until their parents get back on their feet.

It’s Jill Soares mission to make sure their birthdays are celebrated no matter what their situation.

"That’s why we come here. We come here so they can forget about their problems and just enjoy," said Jill. 

Jill works at Hasbro as a senior project manager and volunteers with the non profit Birthday Wishes.

Once a month Jill and her team throw one big party to celebrate all the kids who have a birthday that month. This month they’re celebrating 4-year-old Zachary, 15-year-old Danielle, and 1-year-old Imani.

Jill said, "People say to me like oh my god that’s so nice what you do but it’s sad they think its sad. But there’s nothing sad about these parties because were taking these kids out of the situation. We’re forgetting about homelessness for Tonight and were just celebrating birthdays."

Danielle Garcia tells me celebrating her 15th birthday feels weird. She says the last time she blew out the candles on a birthday cake, she’d just turned eight.

"I don’t get to celebrate my birthday often because we’re always moving around a lot. It’s the most presents I’ve ever gotten," smiled Garcia as she opened her presents. 

None of this would be possible if not for Jill’s dedication.

"Her spirit of service and giving back to the community is something to admire," said Kevin Coleman, manager of global philanthropy at Hasbro.

Jill said, "This is how many people are here every month and if one person watching this wants to become involved then I’m happy to be chosen."

More than 2 thousand homeless children in Rhode Island have celebrated their birthdays because of Jill. Because of her work, she was recently honored through the global volunteer organization Points of Light.
 

For more information on Birthday Wishes click here: https://www.birthdaywishes.org/

(C) WLNE-TV 2015