As previously mentioned for the girls’ birthdays, instead of gifts we ask for donations to a charity of our choosing. My older sister and brother-in-law started doing this with their children, and I loved the idea, so I stole it. For Hadley’s first birthday, we asked people to donate to the “No Kid Hungry” foundation; and for her second birthday, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides free books for children ages 5 and under.
When our youngest, Sadie was born we knew we wanted to keep with this tradition of giving back. A few months before her first birthday, my husband got out of the US Army, and we moved to Hobbs, New Mexico. After moving to Hobbs, we learned about The Weekend Hunger Initiative (WHI).
The WHI, often referred to as the Hobbs Backpack Program, is a location organization that provides back packs filled with food for children to take home each weekend who are considered “food insecure;” meaning unless they receive this backpack of food, they most likely won’t eat. Each bag contains one Vienna sausage can, one beanie weenie can, one Chef Boyardee cup, 2 pudding cups, 2 fruit cups, 2 bags of cereal and one plastic spoon. Unfortunately, many children did not have utensils to eat the provided food; Our local Wendy’s stepped up and donates approximately 23,000 spoons per year to help feed these children in our community.
There are so many wonderful, deserving causes and organizations out there, that it can be difficult to navigate the best place to donate, and where donations have the most impact. To me, ending childhood hunger is one area where by donating you can see an immediate impact. Nationwide 16 million children struggle with hunger. New Mexico ranks highest in the country for food insecurity among children. Hobbs is a city whose economy is largely based on oil, and as the economy struggled, as did our community. Currently, The WHI of Hobbs serves 625 children each week, approximately 23% of the children in Hobbs. Unfortunately, hunger effects children’s development physically and mentally. Children who deal with food insecurity and hunger are twice as likely to repeat an elementary school grade. Realizing the struggles in our community and the potential impact, we decided to take action locally.
Thus far, we have been able to collect donations to the WHI for Sadie’s first and second birthday, and Hadley’s third and now this week, her forth birthday. By our estimate through their birthdays, we have been able to not only teach our daughters about kindness, gratitude, and serving others, but collect approximately $4300 to help feed local children in our community. I also make it a point to take them to the donation center, so that they can see what these donations are providing to the community. When I asked Hadley what we were doing and why, she told me “We are taking money so that kids don’t have crummies in their tummies” (We have been reading a lot of the Lorax lately). Even though she is young, and doesn’t fully understand exactly what we are doing and why, my hope is that it in sinks in. That as they get older, they begin to understand more and more the importance of what we do and why we do it.
I was talking with a friend about our birthday donations, instead of gifts, and she said to me ‘I hope you don’t mind but I told some other friends about this, and we are doing to steal your idea.’ Please! Please ‘steal’ this idea! Please celebrate your child on their birthday, and make them feel special! Please teach them from an early age the importance of giving back, and the importance of serving your community. When we instill these principles and values in our children from an early age, my hope is that they become naturally ingrained in their character. So yeah, I don’t mind if you steal this idea. In fact, I hope you do.
As Dr. Seuss writes in the The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. Its not.”