MRO partners with Bright Blessings for Birthdays

By Susanne Bowyer

I’m a birthday believer!! I love celebrating birthdays! If it’s your birthday and you don’t want fanfare, don’t let word get to me that it’s your special day. I savor the excitement of baking cakes, decorating rooms, wrapping presents and celebrating with family and friends. Birthdays affirm outwardly what, I believe, you should already feel in your heart – that YOU ARE SPECIAL! Is there anything more exciting than celebrating another anniversary of life? We should all celebrate every milestone!
Last week was simply a treasure for me. I was invited to a ‘Summer Caution’ event by NASCAR’s Motor Racing Outreach Women’s Ministry in Charlotte, NC.  Since 1988, the MRO has given countless hours of their time and millions of dollars across a wide variety of needy people around the world. Each year the women’s ministry has a ‘Summer Caution’ in which they partner with a local Charlotte organization to make a difference in the lives of individuals around the area. 
This year the MRO partnered with Bright Blessings – Previously called Birthday Blessings. Bright Blessings is a 501c3 non-profit organization serving homeless children across the greater Charlotte region. They have two programs. ‘Bless-A-Baby’ which provides care-essential baskets to mothers and babies entering homelessness, and ‘Bless-A-Birthday’ which hosts birthday celebrations at local homeless shelters and classroom birthday party packages for transient homeless students across the local area schools.
Centerpiece for Tables
As I entered the Charlotte Motor Speedway Ballroom I wasn’t sure what to expect, being my first MRO Summer Caution. But I quickly felt welcomed by the love and smiles of so many women. The room was beautifully decorated with bright colors. Each of the tables had individualized centerpieces with paper flowers and trinkets hanging delicately. There were pastel icing cupcakes atop creatively crafted stands. Looking around, I felt I had entered a birthday party in an Alice in Wonderland fairy tale. The room was simply stunning!
I happened upon a table of ladies who had full hearts and had made giving a family tradition. I introduced myself to ‘G.G.’  G.G. wasn’t her real name but she was a great grandmother and so everyone started calling her G.G. She introduced me to her grandaughter, Aunt Rita, and great grandaughter, Celine. As others arrived, I had the pleasure to meet Aunt Karen, Nana, and Vonda.  What a great time this was going to be to share this experience with them. This group of lovely ladies immediately adopted and welcomed me into their family. We were about to celebrate this party together.
My Family Table:
Vonda, GG, Aunt Rita, Nana, Celine, & Aunt Karen
Wendy Vinturini, correspondent and reporter for SPEED TV and NASCAR RaceDay, was the Master of Ceremonies. Her evervescent personality complimented the celebratory mood as she timelined the event and introduced us to the background and purpose of Bright Blessings.  
Our Master of Ceremony
Wendy Vinturini (Far right)
Before a delicous dinner, which was provided by BoxCar Grille, Melanie Self, the MRO’s Women’s and Children’s Ministry Coordinator recognized the volunteers for the event. There were many gift baskets and totes given away as door prizes for the event. Two ladies from my table, including my new adopted great grandmother GG, won and we were all excited to see all the treasures inside.  
Jamie Grace
The entertainment for the evening was Jamie Grace Harper, Contemporary Christian Musician, who has a refreshing personality and a funky laid-back vibe. Introducing her sister, Morgan Harper Nicholes, they both took the stage and had our toes tapping, hands clapping, and our spirits filled with joyful music for the evening.    
Any Cervantes-
 Co-Founder Bright Blessings
Terri Springer,
 Services Program Manager- Bright Blessings
Special guests of the evening were the co-founder of Bright Blessings, Amy Cervantes and Shelter Services Program Manager, Terri Springer. I was surprised and saddened by the statistics of homeless children.  The average age of a homeless person is 9 and 42% of homeless children are under the age of 6. Over 4,500 babies, children, and teens in the Charlotte area are without a stable home.  In 2010, there was a 36% rise in family homelessness in the Charlotte area and that percentage doesn’t appear to be getting better in today’s economy.
Shelters provide food and clothing to these families but they also need our love and care. I had tears in my eyes as I listened to Amy and Terri’s stories of children who had never experienced a birthday party.  They shared memories of homeless boys who had never made a wish blowing out candles on a cake and a little girl who had received her first Barbie through Bright Blessings and didn’t want to let it out of her site. My heart ached with empathy and compassion as they shared accounts of little children who tried to give back toys at the end of the day not realizing they were theirs to keep. A luxury for me would be a day at the spa, or a vacation in the mountains but, for these children, a luxury is often times shampoo or a toothbrush, things that I take for granted every day. I can’t imagine having a birthday go by that is not acknowledged by anyone.
Care Package items
for Homeless Boys and Girls 
around theCharlotte Area
Care Package Items
for Homeless Boys and Girls
Around the Charlotte Area
We were all asked to bring items for care packages and gifts for these children. The attendence at the event was around 200 individuals and looking at the bins fill up throughout the night overflowing with items such as footballs, nail polish, hair accessories and baby necessities, was truly amazing. There will be some kids in Charlotte who’s hope will not drown out and who will no longer feed on insecurities because they will feel the love and adoration of so many giving hearts in this room. 
At the end of the evening, Miss Melanie closed by giving us words of wisdom. We are blessed to be a blessing. We have much and there are many that don’t have any. We should all stretch beyond what we are comfortable with because God will provide us the ability. This knowledge I will hold dear to my heart as I reach out to bless these kids. 
 I encourage everyone to look into and and support these organizations who give so freely of their time and resources     
B- Belive in someone
L- Love someone
E-Encourage someone
S- Step down and serve others
S- Speak life in your own way
Genesis 12:2- “ I will bless you… and you will be a blessing to others.”.


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