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Girl surprises homeless families with party

An 11-year-old West Sacramento girl celebrated the first anniversary of her pay-it-forward project by throwing a party for homeless families.

More than 150 homeless women and their children got a surprise Monday: A night of fun, games and food trucks, amounting to a little break from life's difficulties.

The founder of the feast isn't some rich donor. She is an 11-year-old girl.

ABC10 first introduced you to West Sacramento girl Leah Nelson one year ago. That's when she launched the "Becuz I Care" project, making bracelets to put smiles on people's faces and make the world a better place.

Now, a year later, Leah threw her movement a birthday party! She used it to surprise the more than 150 women and children living at Saint John's Program for Real Change shelter and center.

"We just have everything out here, from game trucks to food trucks to bounce houses, and we're just letting the kids have a good time," Leah said, standing in the playground area, which was filled with running, laughing and jumping kids. "I love just hanging out and hearing their stories and what they've been through and letting them know that they're strong to go through these things."

Saint John's CEO Michele Steeb said we can all take a lesson from Leah.

RELATED: 'Becuz I Care' gains attention worldwide

"(She) raised over the course of a year a little over $1,000 and decided she wanted to do something big for the homeless, so she put on a surprise birthday party and it's just been a fantastic evening," Steeb said. "It's the epitome of, 'Oh my gosh, we all can do something,' right? We all can do something to help the homeless because an 11-year-old put this on."

The shelter recently expanded, allowing it to house an additional 90 women and children.

Still, Steeb said, "unfortunately, every night, our wait list is still at about 280 women and children."

Leah's gift, she said, brightened these families' day.

"We're just letting the kids have a good time because they're in bad situations," Leah said. "Just letting them cut loose and just be kids, like we all can be."

It's a mission of kindness we can all get behind.

RELATED: West Sac girl's homemade bracelets going to the Emmys

With its shelter expansion, Saint John's Program for Real Change needs volunteers, from people to serve meals and help with the children's program to tutors for the women trying to get their high school diplomas. Donations are welcome, too. Learn more at its website HERE.

Follow Leah and her "Becuz I Care" project on Twitter HERE and on Facebook HERE.