Michigan—Four third-grade students at Village Adventist Elementary School, in Berrien Springs, Mich., decided to celebrate their birthday in a new way this year. They still played party games, ate cake and ice cream, and enjoyed cheering each other on to break the piñata; but instead of getting presents, they collected donations for a local pet shelter.
Emma VanderWaal and Kassie Metzger, who turned ten, along with Hunter Baldwin and Josie Suarez, who turned nine, had about 35 of their friends join the birthday celebration in March held in the Village School gym. As each guest arrived, they brought with them dog and cat food, pet toys, kitty litter and even some cleaning supplies—all for the Berrien County Animal Shelter.
Although the idea originated with the children’s parents, once the kids had a chance to think about it they became very excited about the idea and started telling all their friends. The excitement continued to grow because each student at Village School always looks forward to a few traditional fourth-grade year projects that also support a local pet shelter.
"One of my friends couldn’t make it to the party, but wanted to give some of his extra cans of dog food to the shelter," says Josie. "So we kept getting donations even after the party was over."
"In our family, we love to make birthdays a big deal but with big birthday parties comes lots of guests who each bring a gift. Although always appreciated, my child doesn’t need all those gifts," says Keri Suarez. "And at nine years old, I think it’s a great time to start getting them involved in thinking about what others need instead of what they want."
The donations, which filled up the back of a minivan, were delivered to a very appreciative staff at the Berrien County Animal Shelter.
Keri Suarez, leader, Home and School Association, Village Adventist Elementary School, as shared with Diane Thurber, assistant communication director, Lake Union Conference