WASHINGTON, Pa. (Oct. 25, 2011)— Meg Yunn, director of volunteer programs at Washington & Jefferson College, is one of 10 first-place winners nationwide in Scholastic Media’s third annual Clifford the Big Red Dog® BE BIG ™! in Your Community contest to support civic engagement.
Yunn is no stranger to community involvement. In her role at Washington & Jefferson College, she advises eight service organizations and oversees 19,000 hours of community service each year.
Still, Yunn was heartbroken when a fifth grader at a local community center told her she had never had a birthday party, so she turned her attention to making the wishes of local low-income and homeless children come true.
Yunn’s idea: to establish a nonprofit organization that will provide birthday celebrations for all children.
“Regardless of personal circumstance, birthdays are meant to be celebrated and all children should have the opportunity to feel special and be recognized,” Yunn said. “All children deserve the opportunity to blow out a birthday candle and make a wish.”
In the book “Clifford’s Birthday Party,” the children want to give their special friend Clifford an extra special birthday.
“I want to do the same for the children in my community, which is why my new non-profit will work with Pittsburgh-based agencies to provide birthday celebrations for children in the region who are homeless and/or are in the Children, Youth and Families system," Yunn said.
Yunn noted that a recent report by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund reported that from July 1, 2010 through January 31, 2011, nearly 1,700 children from birth through grade 12 were identified as homeless in Allegheny County.
“For many, their special day went unnoticed,” Yunn said.
Funds from the $2,500 award will be used to handle initial start-up costs, which include marketing materials, a website and birthday celebration supplies. Yunn’s non-profit will host a monthly birthday party for all the students enrolled in the after-school program that sparked her idea. These children will receive a birthday goodie bag and have the chance to sing “Happy Birthday” to each other and eat cake.
The winning Big Ideas were selected by a panel of judges based on four criteria: feasibility, creativity, sustainability and impact. A complete list of finalists can be found at www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig.
Yunn hopes to have the first birthday celebration before the end of the year.