Written by Jenn Savedge
Mother Nature Network
Connor Irvin of Luray, Va., turned 8 years old in April. Like you might expect, Connor had an awesome birthday party complete with Minecraft decorations, a homemade cake, games, and lots and lots of presents. But what you might not expect is that all of those presents weren't actually for Connor. Instead, the second-grader asked that party-goers forgo the gifts and instead bring art supplies that Connor planned to hand-deliver to St. Mary's Home for the Disabled.
It turns out, Connor is not alone in his generosity. He's actually part of a growing trend among kids who are choosing to ask for charitable donations rather than gifts. The Christian Science Monitor recently ran a story about 11-year-old Claire Hall of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who hasn't received a birthday gift since she was 4. Instead of gifts, Claire has asked friends and family members to give her pet supplies: food, treats, toys and other items she can donate to the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
An increasing number of nonprofits say they are being helped by these pint-size philanthropists who are willing to give up their gifts from birthdays, graduations, and bar and bat mitzvahs to donate to a good cause.
What makes these kids so kind-hearted?
I asked Connor's mom, Elizabeth, how and why her son decided to give rather than receive. Here's how she described it:
"When Connor was 6 he came into my room and said he wanted to give instead of receive for his 7th birthday. He said he wanted to send toys to kids in Africa. He said he was watching (the) Disney channel and saw where a girl gave shoes to kids in Africa for a project and he wanted to do that for his birthday. He said he had enough toys so he shouldn't get any more. So last year we sent (a) box of toys to Africa. When he decided to send this year we wanted to send somewhere closer. I told him about a place I used to work and showed him their website. With tears in his eyes he said that would be best. I called a lady I used to work with and she set up a visit."
I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask Connor the same question:
"My mom said we should pick somewhere closer than Africa this year so we looked online for places and she remembered a place she used to work and showed me the kids. When I saw the pictures I felt sad for them. So I wanted to help them. I decided to donate because it seems like the right thing to do. I don't need anything. I have everything I need. I'm set and ready with everything I need." How can you encourage kids who want to receive donations for a cause rather than gifts for their next celebration? According to Elizabeth, it's best to make it a meaningful experience for the child rather than a chore. "I let him kind of take charge of what he wanted to do. He was given money to go in and was very careful to pick out stuff for the kids. Showing him pictures of the group helped him to get an understanding of who he was buying for. Honestly, I don't know what I did to give him such a big heart. I just encouraged it. Every year for Christmas we go through his toys and donate the things he has outgrown. Our whole world is focused more on appreciating experiences and the things we have rather than the things we want," she added.
This article originally appeared on the Mother Nature Network at www.mnn.com.
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