Give the Selfless Gift on Your Child’s Birthday
Published: June 1, 2019
By: Denise Morrison Yearian
At a time when parents are pulling out all the stops for their children’s birthday parties, some families are hosting hooplas to give gifts away. Children’s charity birthday parties are an emerging concept that encourages youngsters to think and act altruistically. And for some families, the idea is being embraced with open arms.
When Tracy Crowley and Ingrid Yerger’s two 10-year-old sons and fellow schoolmates Cayden and Bo wanted to share their shindig, their mothers suggested they have a Hawaiian-themed party with a focus on presence, not presents.
“We both knew what the boys really wanted was to have fun with their friends, and they didn’t need any more toys. So we suggested they have a party and donate their gifts to the children’s hospital,” says Crowley, Cayden’s mother. “It went with the whole party theme – kids giving kids presents – and would involve sharing with those less fortunate. We threw the idea out to the boys but told them, ‘It’s up to you.’ They thought it was a great idea.”
For the Morris family, benevolent birthdays are becoming a beloved tradition. When their oldest son Jake celebrated his seventh last year, he had a baseball-themed blowout and asked attendees to donate children’s essentials to a local nonprofit organization. His younger brother Cole latched onto the idea.
“During that time Jake explained to Cole why he chose to do this and Cole said he wanted to have a charitable party too,” says Morris. “So when his birthday rolled around we rehashed the idea to make sure he was still up for it then decided on a tie-dye t-shirt party.”
In keeping with the t-shirt theme, Morris contacted a charitable organization Cole was familiar with to okay the idea of donating shirts and then sent out invitations asking that instead of gift, guests bring a t-shirt for a needy child.
Cole’s celebration was a full-blown festivity with 30 pint-sized partakers and a variety of art and craft stations including tie-dying t-shirts, clay sculpting and wooden toy painting. Cayden and Bo’s bash was bountiful too, with swimming, an inflatable moon bounce, a water ice truck and 50 children who donated a deluge of dolls, art activities, building blocks and books.
“After the party the boys sorted the presents by gender then they each chose one gift they wanted. The rest were bagged and taken to the hospital,” says Crowley. “That’s when it really hit home. A hospital representative met us at the front door, shook Cayden and Bo’s hands and thanked them profusely. Although we couldn’t give the presents directly to the patients, she talked with the boys about how their giving would help and took them on a tour of the facility.”
Cole experienced an outpouring of offerings too. “We got tons of shirts! People brought outfits too!” says Morris. “After the party we went to the agency and together handed the shirts over. The representative thanked him, took his picture to include in an upcoming newsletter and said, ‘Maybe when other people see your photo they’ll want to have parties like yours.’ I looked at Cole and his face was beaming. That’s when I knew he got it. He really got it!”
Both parents agree the no-gift notion didn’t detract from the celebrations. It broadened their children’s community awareness and stirred up a sense of gratitude.
“I think the whole event benefitted Cole in that he enjoyed being with the people he loves, doing what he loves, which is arts and crafts. And that’s what’s really important,” adds Morris. “He also learned an important lesson about giving and developed a greater appreciation for others’ needs. And he had a great time in the process.”
The event left an indelible impression on Cayden too. “He learned that he’s fortunate to have family and friends who love him, good health and a comfortable lifestyle,” says Crowley. “And that helping others is our responsibility, and with a little creativity it can be a fun and rewarding experience.”
Denise Morrison Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.