It’s September, and Mikey is bursting with excitement. He is about to turn nine years old, and his mother has promised him a proper birthday bash: laser tag with friends.
Unbeknownst to Mikey, his mother Mia Green is worried. Invitations have been sent out to fifteen of Mikey’s friends from his current and former schools. The party is four days away, and only two people have responded saying they can make it.
“It was heartbreaking. I was suddenly struck by a fear: What if nobody shows up? How will I tell my son?”, Mia remembers thinking.
Reaching out to strangers for help
Friends have come in and out of Mikey’s life because he has changed schools several times over the past years.
“Mikey has not yet been able to form a core group of friends. I felt bad for my son; after all, friends are an even more important part of a birthday party than presents and treats. I also felt like a bad mother because he didn’t have enough friends”, Mia says.
Suddenly, she remembered a Facebook group she had come across earlier: Hätävaravieraat, “Guests for emergencies”. The members of the group, which was founded in 2017, can be invited as guests to children’s parties in case the original guests are unable to attend. The group is a completely volunteer operation and the children are always accompanied by a parent at the party.
Mia ends up sending a request for help to the group administrator. It pays off: the other parents are touched by the mother’s concern.
Mikey, Mia and Maya Green received valuable help from other families and plan on paying it forward by helping others.
A party full of frolicking and laughter
When the big day arrives, the place is packed with guests. Mia is deeply grateful. The children get to play, and the party is full of frolicking and laughter.
“Several families responded to my message. I felt like crying when I saw that there are still people out there who care and want to help each other”, Mia says.
She was initially concerned about her son’s reaction to having strangers for guests.
“My concerns turned out to be in vain because children are able to bond within seconds. I was moved to see how much fun everybody had and how happy my son was with the party. He made new friends with whom he will spend time again in the future.”
The Tamminen family is busy preparing for the upcoming joint birthday of their sons Anton and Aaron.
Kind acts make a difference
It’s October, and the living room of a family home in Paimio is filled with hustle and bustle. Anton and Aaron are visibly excited about their joint birthday party during the upcoming weekend. Anton, the older brother, has just turned seven, and Aaron will turn four soon. Inviting the relatives over to celebrate both occasions at once is convenient.
The balloons, decorations and serpentine streamers are all ready to go. The family’s father, Markus Tamminen, is looking for the right tableware. He knows how lucky he is. The boys already successfully celebrated their birthdays with their friends, and the list of relatives attending this second party is long. When it comes to his sons’ birthday party, Markus has nothing to worry about, at least for now.
However, Markus has experience with a situation in which a child almost had to celebrate their birthday alone. One summer afternoon he received a cry for help through the Hätävaravieraat group: guests were needed for a birthday party later that day. Just a few hours later Markus, Anton and Aaron pulled up to the host’s yard.
Aaron Tamminen celebrates his fourth birthday with gusto. This time, he is joined by his brother Anton (left) and Mia Green’s children Maya and Mikey.
A smile is the best reward
“It felt great to see the relief on the parents’ faces and the big smile lighting up the child’s face. Helping out is extremely important for us. The thought of a child having to spend their birthday alone hurts my heart”, says Markus.
“It took no longer than 15 seconds for my son to make friends with the hero of the occasion. In addition to playing indoors, the children jumped on a trampoline and threw water balloons outside. An outsider would never have guessed that they didn’t know each other beforehand.”
Tamminen’s sons also remember the party fondly.
“Putting a smile on somebody’s face is the best reward. Helping others makes you happy as well. We want to teach our children that actions matter – you can brighten up another person’s day just by being there for them.”
Mikey’s birthday party was saved thanks to Hätävaravieraat. He made not only memories, but new friends as well.
Every child deserves to have a party
Today, Mia Green sits on the sofa in Markus and Tarja Tamminen’s Paimio home while their children play with balloons in the hall. The two families did not know each other beforehand, although they are both volunteers for Hätävaravieraat. What they have in common is concern over lonely children. It is an easy feeling to relate to.
“Doing good deeds for other people gives you hope that you might also receive help in a similar situation. You never know; one day, the shoe might be on the other foot”, Markus says.
Mia nods. Her family received valuable help. The gesture has stayed with her.
“It’s wonderful to see that people sincerely want to help each other. We want to pay it forward by helping others in our situation.”
The Tamminen and Green families are part of the Hätävaravieraat network of volunteers, which is composed of parents and children all across Finland. The 200 families in the network are dedicated to ensuring no child has to spend their birthday alone. You can contact Hätävaravieraat through their Facebook page.