When officials with West County Center got word that Birthday Buddies, an initiative of the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, took a hit during the pandemic, the shopping center went to work to find a way to help. Birthday Buddies pairs donors with kids in foster care to make sure they receive birthday gifts.
Sean Philips, marketing director for the shopping center, came up with a way the mall and the community could help. The mall installed an 8-foot tall faux birthday cake, trimmed with envelopes labeled with the names of stores popular with kids. Shoppers can simply pick up an envelope, write a birthday message on the enclosed card, drop in a gift card from one of the mall’s retailers, and insert the filled envelope into the opening on the cake.
“We’ve all been impacted by the pandemic and unfortunately many foster families are experiencing financial strain and can’t afford a special birthday celebration for the children in their care,” reported Shelley Thomas-Benke, director of FosterServe Volunteers.
The enormous three-tier cake, complete with ‘burning’ electric candles, is located on level one near Nordstrom. The cake is topped with an oversized replica of the iconic Sign of the Dove, which has stood in the shopping center’s parking lot for more than 60 years.
In early 2020, the mall launched “Dove Love”, a program pairing the center’s iconic Sign of the Dove with community outreach. The first Dove Love program featured local artists commissioned to create artwork depicting the meaning of the Dove symbol. This year, “Dove Love: Birthday Love” celebrates not only the Birthday Buddies program, but also the 200th birthday of the State of Missouri.
“I am a father of three and can’t imagine the heartbreak of a child being disappointed on their birthday,” Phillips said. “West County Center has a long history of supporting the community, and It’s a privilege to help bring happiness to local kids in foster care. We hope the community will get behind this effort.”
The Birthday Buddies cake will be at the center through 2022, which will mark the 20th ‘birthday’ of the multi-million-dollar renovation of West County Center. For more information visit www.ShopWestCountyCenter.com or www.Foster-Adopt.org.