This is a pretty remarkable party idea… birthdays that benefit

June 24, 2013
80960b8dde65177de8f430497ec62429A few years ago for my birthday I asked people not to buy me gifts, and to instead donate the money they would have spent to charity. I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on anything, and it felt quite good.I guess many adults wouldn’t miss out seeing their “gifts” go to charity, but for kids, it’s a different story. I’m not sure how my son would react on his fourth birthday party not being showered with Lego and trucks. But what if I told half the parents to bring presents for charity, so my son gets half, and the rest we drop off at an orphanage/clinic etc?

I’d probably need his buy-in, although he wouldn’t even notice if he was “short” of five or so gifts.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because I came across a piece on about “birthdays that benefit” – donating some or all presents to needy children, or taking the money and donating to a cause or charity instead.

In the article, the author Beth Dalby writes about her daughter’s birthday and how instead of getting presents, raised money for Haitian children (at the time of the earthquakes).

She writes: My daughter, Olivia, has plenty of toys. So when the earthquake hit Haiti, I suggested that instead of getting presents she could ask guests at her sixth-birthday party to bring donations for the American Refugee Committee (ARC) to benefit Haiti. She didn’t even pause before shouting, “Yes!”

For the big day, we served a cake scrawled with “Thank You for Helping Haiti.” The kids learned how the money raised would help Haitian youth and made cards for Haitian children. Now Olivia says she always wants to celebrate her birthday this way, adding us to the many families, like those below, who have thrown fun, creative charity parties.”

She also writes about other families who have done something similar – the stories are below in case you’d like to read them.

So what do you think? Have you ever done anything like it? Would you? Do you think it’s unfair to your children? What age is “appropriate” to do something like this?

The Shaw Family

Birthday girl Daylee, 11

Her parents, Kiersten and Damon, do a lot of charity work for animal nonprofits, so it wasn’t a surprise when Daylee, a passionate young animal lover, asked her guests to bring either dog or cat treats or cash donations for her birthday bash at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS).

Like many Humane Societies around the country, OHS hosts parties on-site. Daylee’s guests had a blast turning fleece, ribbons, plastic balls, and shower-curtain rings into homemade cat toys. During a shelter tour, they stopped to play in the cattery, where each child picked out a favorite feline to give her toy to. The festivities wrapped up with a three-tiered cake covered in fondant paw prints and marzipan animals, made by a family friend.

The Ronan Family
Birthday boy Shawn, 5

Because Shawn is wild about everything military, his parents, Michelle and Shawn, were planning an army-themed party for his fifth birthday when Michelle stumbled across the website for Adopt A U.S. Soldier (AAUSS), a nonprofit that connects American troops overseas with volunteers who boost their spirits through letters, e-mails, and care packages.

Michelle didn’t even get a chance to ask Shawn to forgo presents. The minute she told him about the program, he announced that he didn’t want any birthday gifts for himself. Instead, he asked his guests — all 100 of them — to bring a small item, such as socks, magazines, or DVDs, that he and his mom could mail to their newly matched soldier in Iraq, who would distribute the gifts among the platoon.

Michelle incorporated the military theme into every detail. The party featured obstacle courses, water-balloon “target practice,” a craft table featuring yellow-ribbon cutouts, and a pi?ata in the shape of an army truck. And, when two U.S. soldiers — family friends who had recently returned from duty — showed up in full uniform to surprise Shawn and thank him for his donation, Michelle says Shawn was overcome with pride.

The Warren Family
Birthday girl Brielle, 6

Kesha Warren, Brielle’s mom, says that when she and her husband, Ty, were growing up, money was scarce and birthday presents were a rare luxury. But with Ty’s lucrative job as a defensive end for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, the couple found that providing for their own children was almost too easy.

“You always want more for your kids,” says Kesha, “but I’d take the gifts, opened only hours before, and throw them in the basement without anyone realising they were gone.” So for Brielle’s sixth birthday, Kesha suggested a donations-only party to support Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit organisation that provides clothing and other basic needs to underprivileged kids in Massachusetts.

Brielle wasn’t sold on the idea of a no-gifts celebration until Kesha gave her free rein on the venue. She chose a cake-decorating party at a local bakery where she and her friends donned chef hats and aprons, toured the kitchen, and got a lesson on decorating before practicing their new skills with a piping bag on a cake of their own. Instead of a gift table, Brielle set out plastic tubs to collect new underwear and pajamas her guests brought to donate to Cradles to Crayons.

Like many parents, Kesha wondered if a no-gifts event might breed resentment. Instead, the opposite occurred. “As those tubs started spilling over, Brielle became so excited and proud,” says Kesha.


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  • Janine du Plessis

    I absolutely love this idea! My son turns eight in October and I am going to sit down with him and see what ideas he may come up with.

    June 24, 2013 at 7:40 am Reply
  • nomsa

    This is brilliant.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:31 am Reply
  • Tanya

    I’ve chatted to my son about it – I’m not sure he understands, but even if five of his presents get given to charity, I don’t think he’ll mind nor notice.

    June 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm Reply
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