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The Hood Magazine

Give-Back Birthday Parties

Apr 19, 2014 04:54PM ● By Hood Magazine

By Jeannie Johnson 


When do you typically start planning a birthday party?

Usually about a month before we decide what kind of party to have.

What guidelines do you set for your children when planning their birthday festivities?

We like to try to include everyone, so we try to choose a party that is affordable and will allow us to do that

Do you have both a birthday party with your children's friends and a family party? Why or why not?

They always have a family party, and that is where they get their bigger gifts. As the kids get into older ages, 8 and up, we like to plan a "give-back" party where they get to choose a charity and the gifts/service goes to the charity. It’s amazing how much fun the kids have when they are given the opportunity to give back on their special day. 

Why did your children choose to celebrate their birthdays with a volunteer activity? How has it impacted them?

Our "give-back" parties started a few years ago when our son wanted to invite everyone in his class to his party because he didn't want to leave anyone out. He told us that it hurts not to be included, and he wanted everyone to be included. At that point we asked him if he really "needed" 40 presents, because that's how many kids would be there. It was at that point that he suggested giving the gifts away to kids who don't have/get many gifts.

The idea grew from there. We researched some local charities, and that first year we gave the gifts to Children's Care Hospital. We got a list of needed items and instead of the kids bringing gifts for the birthday boy, they picked a gift from the list and brought that. We had a pool party for the kids to swim and bring the gifts. The next year he chose the Castle Club through Sanford Children’s Hospital to be the recipient of the birthday giving. It is especially awesome when the kids get to deliver the gifts themselves. The past two years we have chosen Kids Against Hunger because it is not only a give-back program but the kids also get to do the hard work in packing the meals. They bring a donation instead of a birthday gift. The older kids really enjoy doing this, and it becomes a competition to see if they can beat last year's meal packing number and beat each other's tables.

How many meals did you pack? How much time did it take?

Our record was over 10,000 meals at one party. We packed for about 1 1/2 hrs. The younger kids packed a bit slower, so their numbers were lower.

Why do you, as a parent, think it's important to consider a birthday party that gives back to the community?

Our kids are fortunate and really don't need one more gift card or another toy. Giving back teaches them to look at those less fortunate and help them. It takes them outside of themselves and looks at the needs of those around them. They can really make a difference in our community, even at a young age.

What did the guests think of the parties?

Parents LOVED that they didn't have to go get yet another gift, wondering if that child already HAD that gift. Some parents stayed and helped and really enjoyed the whole experience. Kids had a ton of fun! 

Did you do any other birthday activities? If so, what were they?

For the Kids Against Hunger parties we just had cupcakes one year and handed out candy bars the next year. For CCHS and Sanford Children’s, we had pool parties and pizza. Nothing we did took a ton of planning. The kids just want to hang together and play!

What advice do you have for others planning a child's birthday party?

Research different charities and chose a "give-back" party. What better way to make your birthday child feel special than by helping them organize such a meaningful event to help others? I know others who have done a give-back party for the Humane Society.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Once you do one "give-back" party, you will want to do all your parties like this!