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Birthday party spreads cheer to others, too
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Rosemary Whitemire, right, and Sam Young, left, look through some of the gifts Rosemary’s friends donated to Challenged Child and Friends. - photo by Tom Reed
Sharing the wealth
If you’re thinking of adding a charitable component to your wedding or birthday party, here are some ideas:
  • Start with the Web: There are several Web sites that let you buy gift cards for specific charities, or let you create a custom card.
  • Try a theme: If you’re into animals, have an animal-themed party and include gifts to the Humane Society, like towels or newspapers.
  • Ask around: If you have a favorite nonprofit organization, like a museum or children’s charity, ask them if they have a wish list, and start from there.

When it came time to start planning her birthday party, Rosemary Whitmire, now 9, wasn’t just thinking about herself.

Rather, after recent discussions with her mother about helping others, Rosie decided she didn’t need all those gifts. But maybe someone else would.

“She really wanted to have it at Skate County, which she’d had for a couple years, and in talking about having it at Skate Country, her first thought was she wanted to do something for some kids at an orphanage. And it just kind of snowballed from there,” said Rosie’s mother, Anna Whitmire.

But sending a bunch of gifts off to an orphanage seemed a little far-fetched, Whitmire said, which is when Rosie started thinking locally, asking her mother to describe different local charities.

“Then she started to tell me about Challenged Child and I was like, ‘Sure, Challenged Child is a great idea,’” said Rosie. “And I decided to help them because my mom told me a lot of information about them and I really wanted to help them.”

The idea of forgoing gifts at a birthday party — or, giving gifts to a charity — isn’t necessarily a new idea, but with recent economic changes, and with many charities feeling the pinch, it’s one way to help spread the wealth.

Yuki Nozoe, assistant manager at Monkey Joe’s in Atlanta, a party space for kids, said they see a good amount of parties where the party itself is the present and kids opt for no gifts. Sometimes, kids decide to give the gifts to charity and sometimes it’s the idea that the party is enough.

But, Nozoe said, it’s not always the kids making that decision.

“I really think it’s the adults; I don’t think it’s the kids making the decision themselves,” Nozoe said. “Kids want the presents, but if they don’t get it, it’s not a problem.”

Challenged Child and Friends, a Gainesville day care and school for disabled children, had a wish list that Rosie took to Target and used to make a gift registry, just like for a wedding or a graduation party.

“She had a good time going around with a scanner gun,” Whitmire said. “She had a lot of fun creating the list from the list she (Gail Schneider, fundraising coordinator for Challenged Child) gave us.”

Rosie said she was also partly inspired by a party thrown by a friend of hers, too. That friend asked partygoers to give gift cards, and then planned on taking them to an orphanage or a charity.

The result of Rosie’s party? Lots of games and some paint sets, along with some specific items Challenged Child needed.

“I feel that I’ve kind of helped them a lot, and I hope they enjoy my stuff that I gave to them,” she said. “And I hope they just enjoy the toys and stuff, so they can have a happy life.”

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