Abigail Heiden, left, and Lily Grafstom, both four-years-old, help Michelle Kendall host virtual birthday parties from her company’s warehouse. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge company hosts free online birthday parties amid COVID-19 crisis

Next party to be held this Friday, March 27

Michelle Kendall’s party supply store was heading into their best year ever. That is before COVID-19 hit.

Then her five-year-old online company, called Paper & Parties, went from 60 orders a day to around 3, over night.

So, the Maple Ridge mother of two had to make some tough decisions. She laid off four of her five employees. She had to cancel her own daughter’s fifth birthday party plans along with a trip to Disneyland.

Wanting to lift her spirits and those of others who are in the same boat, Kendall decided she wanted to try hosting a free virtual birthday party.

“I love hosting parties and I just wanted to give something back,” said Kendall.

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“I didn’t really know where my place was in all of this. I’m not a front-line worker,” continued the Maple Ridge mother, fighting back tears.

“This is what I know how to do, to give back to people in the community and give moms little bit of a break and get kids excited about something out of the ordinary,” she said.

The team of two set up an iPhone camera in the warehouse along with a fun, party atmosphere backdrop, including balloons, a cake, and a present. Then they got a virtual princess to drop in as their special guest.

People who wanted to join the party got a link to log in.

It took Kendall and her partner two days to plan the first virtual party that was held on Friday. They hosted it on Zoom conference call. Participating families got to join in a dance party, sing Happy Birthday and virtually blew out the candles on a birthday cake before opening the present.

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The princess had her own segment where she sang a song and told a story.

More than 50 families from across the country participated.

Kendall is trying to brace herself, like everyone else, with the possibility that she will have to shut down her business until the COVID-19 pandemic turns around.

But, she feels that the community is all in this together.

“I know people are going to be partying on the other side of this all,” said Kendall.

“Getting to see all the other kids is really fun. Just something to look forward to when all their other activities are cancelled.”

Kendall’s next virtual party takes place at 1 p.m. this Friday, March 27.

The free event is a half an hour long.

Kendall is encouraging people who want to join in the party to decorate with their own party supplies or make a treat or dress up in a costume.

To sign up go to paperandparties.com.



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