Fazana Saleem-Ismail, Why I Care Member Recipient


Most children look forward to their birthday for months leading up to the big day, but Fazana Saleem-Ismail was aware that this experience was likely different for children whose families are homeless and/or struggling to make ends meet. While working as a program officer for a grant-making organization that fights poverty, she visited a soup kitchen and learned that staff and volunteers sing “Happy Birthday” to children if they come in for a meal on their birthday. The thought of a child dining at a soup kitchen on his/her birthday haunted her for many years and helped plant the seed for what has now become Jazzy Sun Birthdays.

Since its inception in 2011, Jazzy Sun Birthdays has celebrated the special day of more than 225 children living at four different shelters throughout the Capital Region. With the help of volunteers and donors, birthday parties are held monthly at the shelters, and are themed depending on each child’s interests, with coordinated decorations, cakes, and crafts. Each child receives several gifts, including a book and a toy or item to match the child’s interest. Most importantly, even if there are several children celebrating a birthday that month, “Happy Birthday” is sung to each child individually so he/she can be recognized on his/her special day!

Fazana’s commitment to this project can be summed up in the following statement: “Because I’ve been blessed with so much in life, I want to ensure that children who are going through a tough time know that despite their circumstances, caring people think they are important and worth celebrating.”