Awesome Foundation Grant Award Winner: Box of Balloons, Inc.

Written by: Brandi Malarkey
Box of Balloons, Director, Chris Wesland

Balloons, presents and cake are standard hallmarks of a birthday that can become cherished memories for a child. Unfortunately, for a large segment of Fargo’s children, such a simple joy is beyond reach.

Box of Balloons, Inc. wants to change that. Entirely run by volunteers, Box of Balloons has already provided over 400 birthday parties to area children since the Fargo chapter of the national nonprofit was founded in late May of 2020. Co-founder Chelsey Strand, a social worker at Sanford Health, helps connect Box of Balloons to a variety of nonprofits throughout the community to reach children and families in need who are experiencing a medical crisis, changes in a living situation, poverty or other hardships. Chris Welsand, a volunteer when the Fargo chapter was founded, is now the new Director and co-leader of the project, taking on more of the administrative and volunteer related tasks.

“I grew up in a family with modest means. Since money was tight, I wasn’t able to have a birthday party every year. However, when I was 5, my mom threw me a home party that I will never forget. Homemade cake baked into an ice cream cone, a few games, balloons and some streamers, a handful of friends who got to go home with a party favor, all the makings of a good birthday celebration. I know my mom didn’t spend much money on this party, but the warm memories of that party were never forgotten. When I had my daughter, I wanted to make sure that she felt as celebrated on her birthdays as I did when I was five. I was blessed to be able to have a celebration on each of my daughter’s birthdays. I feel birthdays are a special day and an important way we can celebrate children, so I got involved with Box of Balloons,” Chris said.

With a large population of children in the FM area in schools, foster care, homeless shelters, or in families suffering from unexpected setbacks or medical crises experiencing resource shortages, the need for assistance has only increased over time. While Boxes of Balloons originally provided three or four birthday parties a month, they are now regularly assembling an average of 15 to 20 a month, with November and December annually showing the highest demand.

“It’s hard to give a special birthday if funds are already stressed. Then November and December hit and it isn’t just the added holidays, but an increase in heating bills and other utilities that strain those resources even further,” Chris said. “It’s nice to know we can help with a birthday celebration for those children who will otherwise go without.”

It is important to note that none of the volunteers at Box of Balloons have any direct contact with the children they serve. Social workers, child advocates or case workers fill out a request form for each child, providing ages, favorite colors and interests in an attempt to specialize the birthday experience as much as possible. Box of Balloons provides a birthday box comprised of cupcakes, a gift, tableware, decorations and an activity which is presented to the child’s parent, caregiver or person the child is closest to.

One of the possible activities included is a candy-filled piñata. Box of Balloons was recently named the Cass Clay Chapter of the Awesome Foundation’s November 2022 grantee, which provided them with a $1000 gift to add to the birthday party experiences with a variety of piñatas to choose from.

“We’ve been so fortunate to get a wide amount of community support,” Chris said. “Roers, who owns the building the office is in, donates the use of the space to the organization. There are 60 chapters across the US, and thanks to Roers, we are one of the only ones not being run out of a private home. It was just this unbelievably incredible gift. Then we get all manner of other contributions, and it is such a joy to see. Every bit helps. Anyone who donates even a box of candles or unused birthday cards, is helping a child celebrate their birthday.”

Box of Balloons has an Amazon Wishlist and shares their most urgent needs on their social media on “Wishlist Wednesdays.” They also use their social media to advertise volunteer days.

“We’re trying to get more efficient with our box coordination, and there are a variety of tasks that help with that; Sorting candy, putting together party bags, filling piñatas, wrapping boxes, sorting donations. It’s especially helpful when we get a last-minute request to be able to pull a box together quickly.”

With the holiday business over, Box of Balloons is now gearing up to prepare for Giving Hearts Day, their largest fundraising event of the year.

“We always have a lot of things in the works!” Chris said. “And I am just thrilled to be on board with a nonprofit that is easy to explain and a mission that is easy to support. Who doesn’t want a child to have birthday joy? It’s a feel-good mission for sure!”

The mission is simple and straightforward. That every child deserves to feel celebrated and be happy on their birthday.

To learn more about the Fargo chapter of Box of Balloons you can check out their website

To keep apprised of opportunities to volunteer or donation needs, follow them on FB, Instagram or contact them at [email protected].

The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a nonprofit. Applications can be made at

Share This Article