Making Wishes Come True
Some students volunteer in high school to pad their college applications. But for first-years Catherine Minahan and Julia Cohen, a volunteer activity made such an impact that they couldn’t leave it behind.
Minahan and Cohen are bringing birthday celebrations—complete with gifts, cake, and goody bags—to children at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville. Birthday Wishes, based in Newton, Mass., serves more than 165 shelters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Long Island, New York, and now—thanks to the efforts of Minahan and Cohen—in Waterville, Maine.
Minahan and Cohen didn’t know each other before Colby but they both had the same idea. “I called [Birthday Wishes] and said, ‘I don’t know if you remember me.’ They said, ‘Yeah, of course. You volunteered with us in high school. You must be working with Julia Cohen if you are at Colby.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know a Julia Cohen.’”
Minahan emailed Cohen, who was spending her first semester in the Colby in Salamanca program in Spain, to see if she was interested in working together. Soon after, Cohen returned and the two got to work, ultimately securing support and funding from the Colby Volunteer Center. During winter break, the Birthday Wishes cofounder and director came to Colby to finalize creation of a new chapter of the organization at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter.
“It’s really phenomenal, not only for the kids, but for the whole atmosphere of the shelter,” said Colby Volunteer Center Director Dana Roberts ’12. “It really brings in life.”
Whether helping children with a craft project at a party, baking a cake, buying a gift, preparing goody bags, or making a birthday card, students who volunteer help make life more normal for children going through a difficult period.
Said Roberts: “I think that what is so remarkable about Colby is that it gives people the space to take initiative and to grow. Julia and Catherine are both freshmen and they are going to have the chance to launch this program and watch it grow over the next four years.”