October 22, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Caroline Neal, 36 

Founder and Executive Director of Worthdays

click to enlarge caroline_neal.jpg

Scott Elmquist

During her years of being a social worker in Chesterfield County, frustration was a word Caroline Neal knew well.

“The system is extraordinarily broken,” she says. “People in my life had no idea that this is what’s happening.”

But now, when she’s not fulfilling her normal motherly duties to her three kids, she’s making the community aware, one birthday at a time.

In 2016, Neal started Worthdays, an entirely volunteer-led nonprofit that helps meet the needs of kids in the foster care system and reminds them that they’re worth being celebrated.

Although birthdays are the foundation, Worthdays has since expanded to providing transportation for kids who’ve aged out of foster care for job interviews or medical appointments, eliminating the use of trash bags with duffle bag donations and celebrating holidays and graduations. An upcoming project is renovating the room children wait in while being placed with a foster family, a process that can take hours.

Since 2016, Worthdays has helped 600 kids celebrate their birthdays. She emphasizes that each box is personalized and specifically planned for each child. One of the most recent boxes assembled was for a girl who loves Lizzo and wants to be an engineer.

Someone on the organization’s Facebook page responded immediately. For Neal, it’s been humbling to see the community support.

“As small as that celebration may be, at least they know they’re enough,” she says. “That they’re worthy, that their life matters.”

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