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09 Feb, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Birthdays a great time to give back

When Joelle Vineberg began planning her sixth birthday party last fall, her mother, Samantha Mintz-Vineberg, suggested forgoing the usual presents. Instead, they would ask the guests to make a donation to the school library. Initially, her daughter wasn’t sold on the idea but her mom assured her that she would get plenty of presents from the family.

Guests were asked to write a cheque or give money to the school in Joelle’s name. The school librarian purchased new books appropriate to this age group and put a nameplate with the names of the donor and birthday child on each one. The Vineberg family chose the school library as the benefactor so that the kids could see how the students would benefit from their generosity.

“I felt that at the age of 6, they wouldn’t get the meaning of writing a cheque to a hospital or another foundation but a library book with a nameplate would have a lot of impact,” Mintz-Vineberg said.

Joelle’s kindergarten teacher made a point of showing the class the books with the donors’ names inside. It was a special moment and one that taught Joelle and her friends that their actions can have an impact on their world.

Carly Choueke chose a similar route when she turned 6 this past spring. She decided to ask her friends to give money to causes that held special meaning to two friends in her class: the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Donald Berman Yaldei Developmental Centre for kids with special needs.

“Every year, we’d talk about how many gifts the kids would get from friends on their birthdays and how long it took to open them all,” explains Carly’s mother, Ruthy Bensimon Choueke. “You’d get all these gifts home from the party and look at them and wonder what the point is. We explained to Carly that she would still get all the usual presents from us and the rest of her family. She was a real trooper about it and had no regrets.”

Bensimon Choueke notes that each time a donation was made in her daughter’s name, they received a card or email. “I would show these to Carly and she was so excited — the visual part was very important.”

Like the Vinebergs and Chouekes, Simone Freedman also used her daughter’s 6th birthday party as an opportunity to shift some focus off the usual presents and loot bags. Reluctant to completely forgo gifts, Meira Diner decided to ask guests to bring pet food to the party that would be donated to a local SPCA. When she and her mom delivered the bags of food to the shelter, Meira was rewarded with smiles and words of gratitude from the staff. “They made such a big deal about it that she was so happy,” Freedman says. “They took her back to see the dogs and cats and she loved it.”

Freedman says the experience was really valuable because it provided her daughter, who loves animals, with an opportunity to do something selfless on her birthday and to give to a cause that is dear to her heart.

Party suggestions for kids

Even if your child isn’t quite ready to forgo gifts, he or she might be prepared to donate one to a children’s hospital, Sun Youth or a women’s shelter.

Kids lucky enough to bring home a stash of new toys received as presents might consider going through their old toys to find ones they have outgrown or never use. If these are in good condition, they can be donated.

When planning your child’s birthday party, check out www.echoage.ca, a one-stop place to coordinate gift giving and donations. The site allows you to create and send invitations. Guests are asked to give money, of which half is used to buy one meaningful gift for the child and the other half is given to a charity. The site handles the collection of money and sends it to the parent (for gift purchase) or the charity of choice.

Older kids who receive money for their birthday might consider donating a portion of it (say five or 10 per cent) to the charity of their choice.

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