Passing On The Parcels

Denise Yearian believes that charity birthday parties can encourage children to think and act altruistically.

At a time when many parents are pulling out all the stops for their children’s birthday parties, some families are hosting parties where the aim is to give gifts away. Children’s charity birthday parties are an emerging concept that encourages youngsters to think and act altruistically.

This idea was embraced by Elisa Morris and her family when her son Jake turned seven. “One day before his birthday, Jake and I were looking at his toys, and I made the comment, ‘Look at all this stuff; we don’t need any more toys!’ And he agreed,” says the mother of two.

Up to this point, the Morris family had been active in charitable giving, including providing gifts for underprivileged families at Christmas. Recalling this experience, Jake asked if he could share his birthday in a similar way.

“He wondered if he could have a party, but ask the guests to bring clothes and toys for children from a needy family and donate the gifts to them,” says Morris. “When he asked me, I was blown away. We had talked about charity many times, but now he was taking the lead and wanting to do something on his own.”

Jake chose to find a family through a local non-profit social service agency. “He knew about them because I donate a lot of time and resources from my business to them,” says Morris. “This was also the agency we had donated through at Christmas. So we contacted them and asked if there was a family with two boys (since we have two) who could use some new clothes and toys.”

Illustrations By Alastair TaylorThe organisation was glad to oblige and provided Morris with the children’s sizes and suggested some gift ideas, although the recipient family remained anonymous. Morris then sent out invitations to the party and included a note, along with clothing sizes and gift suggestions, explaining what they planned to do.

Like Jake, Suzanne Delaplane had a desire to help others when her son’s third birthday drew near. But considering his age, she took a different approach. “We were going to have a party for Peter, but wanted to avoid extravagance and to begin planting the seeds of charity,” says the mother of two. “He was only three and couldn’t completely understand what we were doing, so I didn’t want him to forgo receiving presents, at least not this year. I thought that in lieu of party extras – lolly bags, a store-bought cake, balloons and decorations – I would make a donation to an organisation myself.”

Delaplane had heard of a non-profit organisation that provides winter clothing to underprivileged children. “I wanted to do something that would benefit children so that Peter could, in some way, relate to their need. And this seemed a good way to go,” she says.

When Delaplane presented the idea to her son, it triggered a conversation about giving. “He started asking why these children didn’t have winter clothes. I explained that we have everything we need, but some families don’t so we should help them out,” she continues. “He was okay with it, but I’m not sure he totally understood. I figured the more we talked about what we were doing, the more it would start to make sense.”

Consequently, Peter’s party was a simple get-together with no fuss and no frills. And when the event was over, Delaplane made a financial contribution to the charity.

Jake, however, had a big bash. Even though Jake had requested guests not to give him gifts, a few families and relatives did. But everyone brought something for the needy family.

“We put out a big box and it was filled with items those boys needed. We even had to get another box,” says Morris. “People went overboard and purchased many clothes and toys. It was amazing!”

Both parents agree that hosting a charitable party was a positive experience for their children. “I think it empowered Jake as a seven year old to do something personally and to give of himself,” says Morris. “It’s not like he had money to hand over, so this was a way for him to feel like he was making a difference in other people’s lives.”

“Peter and I have talked about [the charitable donation] several times since the party, and I’m still not sure he grasps what we’ve done,” says Delaplane. “But in my mind, we’re planting seeds – ones that will hopefully take root and grow. Next year, we may even step it up a notch and ask guests to join us in giving.”

Thinking of hosting a charitable birthday party? Denise Yearian has some great tips.

Illustration By Alastair Taylor