Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Dreams do come true

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The day was finally here – my birthday – and I woke up extra early to start preparations on my surprise project with dad. A bevy of ideas ran through my newly-minted 6-year-old brain, but two things were certain: My dad was a carpenter, and we were going to build something.

For my first school-aged birthday party, dozens of classmates would join my celebration that day, but I only remember watching my dad construct.

What was it going to be?

Why were we in the backyard?

Is that a wall?

The questions rolled through my head faster than my dad could hammer each nail. As the project started to take shape, it was even better than I could have hoped for – a two-story clubhouse, complete with windows and a ladder to the second floor. It was a homemade slice of little-kid heaven.

Birthdays are a memory we never forget – good or bad – and this year,  Springfield Business Journal hopes to inspire more good days in the community.

To honor the 15th class of 40 Under 40, SBJ has partnered with local charity Wish I May, providing “Happy Birthdays” to underprivileged children and their parents in the Springfield area.

“We started this project last year and helped 300 children,” said founder Lisa Slavens of the nonprofit that help children ages 1 to 15. “This year we are on track to help 1,400 kids.”

Slavens and crew anonymously grant birthday wishes for children, giving a toy, but also the needs of parents, providing a cake mix, plates, napkins, candles, a card and a gift bag.

“Everything comes in a big brown bag and it’s our goal the child never even knows we have helped mom and dad out,” Slavens said. “They keep their pride and dignity, but are still able to ask for help and provide a happy birthday for their child.”

I asked each honoree to recall their special birthdays growing up, and the responses didn’t disappoint.

There were rights of passage, such as when Erin Danastasio got her ears pierced, Landon Gray ate his first Dairy Queen ice cream cake and Stephen Evans received “The Legend of Zelda” for Nintendo. Like my favorite birthday memory, there were also events that made the day extra special, such as when Michael Katrosh and friends set up an American Gladiator assault course in the backyard or Miles Ross took a camping trip with his dad. Doubling her birthday fun, Sara Forhetz got married on her 25th birthday and now shares her special day with husband Ethan.

As these 40 honorees grew up, they never lost their sense of childhood. Whether working in education or donating their time, the class of 2013 has a passion for children. They show it through their work with the Children’s Miracle Network, Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House Charities, March of Dimes, Isabel’s House, the 4-H Club and other endeavors across the region.

With small-business owners, executives, entrepreneurs and educators in the mix, these 40 know the value of an honest days’ work and the satisfaction of lending a hand.

I invite every one to join the birthday party March 7 and support Wish I May. From Plinko, to a cupcake walk and balloon animals, this year’s 40 Under 40 event promises to entertain your inner child while helping make a wish come true for another.

Click here for full coverage of the 2013 40 Under 40.[[In-content Ad]]


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