Every few months, Jackie Dresser buys cake mix, balloons and streamers, but instead of celebrating she takes the party pack and sends it 3,000 kilometres away.
The Windsor woman is part of a nation-wide Facebook group called the Northern Birthday Box Project. The online community was created with the goal of connecting sponsors from Southern Canada with families in Canada's North where celebrating a birthday can often come at a higher cost.
"We don't recognize that we can pretty much walk into any grocery store and buy any supplies to make a cake and it would cost us $5 to $10," Dresser said. "Whereas, people in the north will go to stores, and it's sometimes $10 just for cake mix, or $15 just for icing."
The group matches children between the ages of one and 14 with a sponsor who is given the child's age, gender, and name, as well as a little bit of information about them. All party costs are covered by the sponsor, including shipping.
The supplies are often sent four to six weeks before the child's birthday to ensure it has time to travel to their home.
"It just makes someone's day, and ours too." - Koreyan Peterson
After learning about the group from a friend, Dresser started sending birthday boxes. She has sent two so far — both to Nunavut.
"I just thought it was a good idea, to help someone in need, especially a child," Dresser explained. "It makes you feel good."
That great feeling can last for weeks, she explained, especially when the family receives the box. Many times, the families post pictures of the party to show their sponsor how it helped them celebrate.
Amy Qiyuqtaq lives in Nunuvut and received boxes for both of her children.
"I really appreciate the time and effort you gave for my kids", Qiyuqtaq said on the Facebook group.
The boxes bring so much joy to an already celebratory time, Qiyuqtaq added.
"It makes me feel good, and it makes you want to do it for someone else right away," Dresser said. "It's a little price to pay to put a smile on somebody's face."
Boxes relieve financial stress for parents
Dresser plans to continue sending a birthday box every few months in an effort to spread birthday cheer.
Koreyan Peterson helped organize the online project and said it's all about doing her part.
"It frees up money for the family to use on other things", said the Alberta resident. "Birthdays become something that are fun and not something they have to worry about."
Most of the birthday boxes are shipped up to the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon. Families from northern Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have also received birthday supplies through the group.
Peterson is a 6th grade teacher, but helps match sponsors to families in her spare time.
"It's our way of doing something about the situation in Northern Canada in a really easy and non-threatening fun way," she said.
"I have two kids, and they love birthday parties, and so does other kids," Peterson added. "It just makes someone's day, and ours too."
Peterson's 10-year-old daughter has also gotten involved. Last year, she used her own birthday money to send a box.
"It was really fun and it made me feel good inside," explained Kaleigh Peterson. "The best part was hearing that the little girl liked it."