EDINA, Minn. — Gabriel won’t turn 17 until May and Jahmia’s birthday isn’t until April, but there was quite a party for them Friday evening.
The teenagers were among 15 youth who were recognized and celebrated with a birthday bash at Dave and Buster’s with the help of Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.
Edwards, who partnered with The Children’s Home Society of Minnesota to host the party, launched the inaugural event of “The Birthday Club,” which will be a monthly program going forward.
Each of the attendees are in the Minnesota foster care system and don’t always get to have a birthday celebration, so the sight of food, gifts and games was a welcome one.
“It means a lot because there are not many people that remember that we’re here, too,” Jahmia said. “We appreciate it … sometimes [my birthday] hasn’t been [celebrated].”
Added Gabriel: “This was a surprise … I didn’t know this was going to be for our birthdays, and I didn’t know the coach was going to be there. It was pretty fun.”
Edwards said the idea for the get-together stemmed from his wife, Jami, along with Akin Ayodele, who played for Edwards in Buffalo. Ayodele works with The Children’s Home, which has more than 800 children eligible for adoption around the state.
Friday night’s event included food and cake, of course, before Edwards presented each kid with a backpack that includes swag such as sunglasses and a mini Vikings pennant. The kids then went out and played games for more than an hour.
Edwards said he was glad to put a smile on the faces of kids who may not always have birthday celebrations on an annual basis.
“It was awesome, and you can’t put a price on that,” Edwards said. “They seem like they were really enjoying themselves … they went right out and started playing some games.
“It’s a joyous event, and I’m really happy to be a part of it,” Edwards added.
Edwards was joined by Vikings defensive end Tashawn Bower, who signed autographs and posed for pictures.
“I was pretty excited … I got to meet a football player,” Jahmia said.
Bower said the event was a reminder to not take routine events such as birthday and holiday celebrations for granted.
“It was a great idea and a great time for these kids,” Bower said. “I think it’s really important to show them a good time and that people do care.
“I’ve definitely [taken it for granted] before, so doing something like this humbles you and makes you think about that stuff,” Bower added. “You realize there are people who aren’t able to do this type of stuff, and it’s great we were able to make this something special.”
Added Edwards: “Depending on the situation you grow up in and what’s available as far as the resources, there are a number of kids who aren’t settled, and their journey is a little bit tougher and their experiences are a little bit tougher. Giving them this day and letting them know that we’re thinking about them and praying for them is what we want to do.”
Alexis Oberdorfer, the Executive Director of The Children’s Home, said the birthday celebration was an emotional event for many of the kids.
“Oftentimes when they’re in either a foster home or group home setting, they can feel a little overlooked,” Oberdorfer said. “For somebody to host an event that focuses on them and gets to celebrate them, it makes them feel really important and it goes a long way.”
Friday’s festivities were only the beginning, as Edwards said The Birthday Club will be continuous each month. He said he will meet with kids and give them a gift or birthday card to let them know that someone recognizes their big day.
That will allow kids such as Gabriel to be impacted positively.
“I didn’t know anybody could do this,” said Gabriel, who had a smile on his face the whole night. “It was very nice.”
Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards partnered with The Children’s Home Society of Minnesota to launch the inaugural event of “The Birthday Club,” which will be a monthly program going forward to celebrate the birthdays of Minnesota foster care system children.