Meet Live Your Dash Winner: Caroline Neal

After ten years as a social worker in Chesterfield County, Caroline saw firsthand the vast needs of those in the foster care system. She saw a great need in the community and took action realizing even then, a small gesture could have a tremendous impact.

In 2015, Caroline Neal founded Worthdays — a non-profit organization whose mission is to mobilize our community to ensure that those impacted by the foster care system know that they are important, worthy, and celebrated. Worthdays also provides an opportunity to educate and engage the community through celebration in order to raise awareness and increase positive outcomes for the local foster care system.

The name of the organization came from a piece of simple, but profound advice Caroline received – “all day remind him that he’s worth it because all day he’s reminding himself that he’s not.”

Caroline’s initial vision came from realizing it’s hard to feel your worth when nobody is celebrating your birthday. This brought about her Birthday Box idea – striving to make sure all children in the foster care system receive a gift on their birthday. In the organization’s first four years, 700 birthdays were celebrated. This gesture has now grown and expanded to also include Easter Basket deliveries and Christmas gifts. 

Caroline was intentional from the start — to make these children feel loved and worthy through celebrating them with a birthday gift. Her vision was to not only provide them with something gratifying, but also things to address long-term needs in order to feel normal — things such as packaging the gift in a duffel bag or laundry basket used long-term to carry their belongings (instead of the trash bag many receive) or including art supplies or sports equipment to help these children engage in a fun hobby. 

But the impact of this organization goes far beyond gift giving.

Worthdays is also focused on providing children in the foster care system with opportunities to feel normal, loved, and celebrated all while bringing to light this tremendous need in our community through volunteers and supporters, helping to make a positive change on what Caroline feels is a broken system.

“With over 5500 children in foster care in Virginia, I’m thankful someone like Caroline stepped up to start an organization like Worthdays to not only help bring to light a problem within our community that many often do not see, but to also provide a way for those in the community to help these children. She clearly has a huge heart to treat these children with the compassion they need when they are at the most vulnerable.”

Caroline has very intentionally set up Worthdays in such a way that each seemingly small gesture is truly an investment into these children’s futures. Caroline is a shining example of the Live Your Dash motto in action.

“Caroline Neal and Worthdays have provided tremendous support for the Child Protection Team of Richmond. Removing children and placing them in foster care can be a traumatic experience. Caroline’s gifts of love have been impactful by reducing the trauma of entering of kids in foster care. More importantly, whenever there is a need, she is available to support to our Social Workers as well. Caroline’s dedication and commitment to assist our families when there is an IMMEDIATE need has dramatically improved the service delivery to our most vulnerable children.” LaWanda Hunter, Program Manager CPS

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say. It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem. Then there are those people who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” Fred Rogers

“Caroline Neal is my hero. In the 5 years that Richmond Department of Social Services has partnered with Caroline’s non-profit organization, Worthdays, there has never been a time when she has not offered to help, a wish too big to be fulfilled, or a child that has gone uncelebrated on their birthday. Caroline has successfully built a village of individuals within our community who are dedicated to ensuring that children impacted by the foster care system in Virginia feel loved, celebrated, and most importantly WORTHY.” Heather Akin, Family Services Specialist, Richmond Department of Social Services

Caroline is truly living her dash – one birthday at a time. Join us Thursday, April 29 as we honor Caroline, along with more amazing community members living their dash, for our annual spring luncheon.

Click HERE to purchase your Live Your Dash Luncheon tickets!