Every year, for the past nineteen years, I have celebrated my birthday with the orphaned children of Orphaned Starfish's very first program in: Santiago, Chile.
The trips have evolved just as much as I have. We began with a handful of balloon animals and two magic tricks to now crafting over 20 balloon animals and an extended 45 minute magic show. For the past several years, the birth day celebration includes a much needed visit to a local pool as a break from the scorching heat, a lunch feast of grilled meats and vegetables and culminated by an Italian dinner with all their favorite foods and ice cream.
Each year, my birthday wish continues to manifest as I see the joy, hope and love in the faces of these girls that I have known for so many years.
This year came with a beautiful bonus: a giant asado at the new home of one of my heroes – one of the first girls I met in Santiago who today is a successful businesswoman, married to one of the most amazing young men I know and has a beautiful infant son who just loves to laugh. Together, along with other alumni and their loving families, we toasted to the successes of their lives, the difference they had made and my graduation from Tio Andy to them to now Abuelo Andy to these young women’s children.
There is no greater testament to the difference we are making in so many lives than the children here in Santiago, Chile. Their love, their joy, their determination and their successes are more inspirational than I can describe.