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THE CERVANTES FAMILY

Matthews, N.C.

A MOM'S MOMENT: Celebrating son Alex's third birthday at a park in '05, Amy Cervantes gazed at the Thomas the Tank Engine cake and pile of presents. "A spark went off," says Amy, 40. "I thought, 'What about kids who aren't able to celebrate and know how important they are?' "

FAMILY MISSION: Starting with a luau-themed party for kids at a homeless shelter, Amy, husband John, 40, a financial adviser, and their three boys have since feted more than 10,000 needy kids through their nonprofit Bright Blessings (brightblessingsusa.org). Relying on donations and volunteers, they hold monthly birthday bashes for groups of children, with face-painting, cupcakes and gifts like footballs and board games.

DAY TO REMEMBER: Alexis Odugba, living with her mom in Charlotte's YWCA shelter, celebrated turning 14 in February with pizza and gifts of perfumes and lotions. "I got to blow out a candle, and people sang 'Happy Birthday,' " she says. "I felt very special."

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