If you’ve ever been through tough times in Wilton, you’ve learned that this is an amazing community that comes together to help others. But what you might not realize is that the do-gooders in this town sometimes start at a very young age.
Recently, my daughter Catie was invited to two birthday parties in one weekend. I immediately added, “buy birthday gifts” to my to-do list and intended to pop into the toy store for the latest jewelry making kit or duct tape craft.
But as I scanned the information on the invitations, I noticed a request from the birthday girls. On the invitation for Sloan Barker’s luau-style party, it read: “In lieu of gifts, please bring a children’s DVD to help rebuild the collection at the Yale New Haven hospital as theirs was recently stolen.” In lieu of gifts?! Does this ten-year-old know what she’s doing? Does she know what in lieu of means? The second birthday invitation, for fellow fourth grader, Grace Cristini, read the same: “In lieu of gifts, please consider donating to Lyla’s Fund.”
I was impressed. We all know how exciting it is for our children to come home from their birthday party and rip through the dozen or so presents that are piled up on the floor in front of them. My own younger daughter, Emmy, recently had her own party and the new toys are now piled up next to the remaining toys that still haven’t been touched since Christmas! We clearly don’t need anything new in this house, but still, I can’t imagine that my daughter would have been thrilled to give up that new Barbie with the potty-training dog.
When I asked Catie’s friend Grace how giving to Lyla’s Fund rather than getting gifts for her birthday made her feel, she said, “It made me feel happy that I was doing something that could help someone and make someone else feel better.” She added that because she felt awful when she heard that Lyla had cancer, she wanted to do something that could help Lyla and other kids like her.
Sloan appreciated giving, too. “I liked it because I wanted to give to other people less fortunate than me.” The hospital sent her a nice thank you note for her good deed.
But donating their birthday gifts aren’t the only way that kids in this town are doing good. Even my own children have recently been getting into the giving spirit. Catie and her pal Alex Breakey, both fourth graders, recently came to me with a request to help them. They wanted to do something good, they said. They wanted to help children who had to stay in a hospital on Valentine’s Day.
“Do you think that we could make Valentines for children in hospitals?” they asked. I agreed that I would help them to find some appropriate recipients.
Alex and Catie made twenty Valentine’s Day gift bags and donated them to Circle of Care, a local charity that provides support to families of children with cancer. But the girls didn’t want to stop there. As soon as they were finished, they came to me with more ideas. They want to help animals! They want to write to soldiers! They want to visit kids who have had surgery!
Alex and Catie’s ideas really know no bounds. They think with the minds of children; they don’t consider the obstacles and they never assume that something can’t be done.
“What do you think you’ll do next?” I asked Catie as she was getting ready for bed one night.
“Well, you know how kids have after-school activities? I want to start an after-school group called Catie’s Cancer Fighters. We could raise money to donate to different cancer organizations,” she explained.
But first, Catie and her little sister, Emmy, plan to organize their own Relay for Life team for the second year. Last year, their team, “Kids Against Cancer,” raised money by hosting games at the annual Relay for Life of Wilton event. Their team was made up strictly of their peers, most between the ages of 7 and 9.
I admit I am one proud mom. And definitely proud to live in a community where so much good is being done. Wilton kids are living in a place where they see their parents giving back to others every single day. Whether it’s volunteering at the schools, gathering furniture and clothes for people in need, or hosting a bake sale to raise money for a sweet little girl with cancer, I see it around town every day. I read the articles in the papers, I see the signs posted in local stores. So many of you work full-time jobs, raise children, and still find time to give back before collapsing at the end of the day. So pat yourself on the back. Because thanks to all you big do-gooders, we’re raising a lot of little ones.