Celebrating milestones is a rite of passage for kids and birthdays are a cornerstone of that tradition. But, what if you could take all those balloons, streamers and cupcakes and turn them into something lasting? Thanks to a popular trend, many OKC metro families have embraced birthday fundraisers. In lieu of getting gifts, the birthday boy or girl instead asks friends and family to donate or volunteer at a favorite charity or cause, spreading cheer into the local community.
Whether treats for pets, donations for a children’s hospital or books for kids in foster care, birthday fundraisers are a great way to extend your celebration into the community.
(Editors note: If you’re planning a birthday party in the Oklahoma City metro, be sure to check out our guide to local venues, party services and more!)
Johnston, age 8, and Henry, age 5
Johnston and Henry Strecker are animal enthusiasts. So when those animals-in-need commercials come on TV, they often ask about adopting a pet. Looking around their toy-filled home, their mom, Kristen Strecker, had another idea. She asked the boys if they wanted to use their joint birthday party to help local animals.
“I thought it might take more convincing but they bought into the idea,” Kristen shared.
Together, they brainstormed some ideas and settled on collecting items for the Edmond Animal Shelter and the Oklahoma City Zoo. Continuing the animal theme, they hosted their party at the Oklahoma City Zoo and asked guests to bring pet food, treats or toys for the shelter, or purchase something off the zoo’s Amazon wish list.
“I knew it would take the pressure off moms,” Kristen shared. “It’s really easy to pick up pet food anywhere.”
The party was a success. Johnston and Henry got to have a fun day at the zoo, but the real payoff was delivering their collection to animals in need.
“The shelter was so appreciative and gave the boys bookmarks and other stuff. They both held onto those for a long time,” Kristen said. “The zoo sent Johnston a letter in the mail and that was really special for him.”
Devon Garrett, age 10
While hanging out with his Mom at Citizen’s Caring for Children, Devon noticed some bare bookshelves that should be filled with books for kids in foster care and that gave him a big idea. Devon dreamed up a Captain Awesome Pants themed birthday party, his fun twist on the popular “Captain Underpants” series by Dave Pilkey. He encouraged his party guests to bring books to fill those shelves instead of bringing him presents.
“It was all his idea,” said Devon’s mom, Danielle Davila, who works at Citizens Caring for Children. “He won a birthday party at SoccerCity. It was great that he got to see the experience full circle. He was given something and he got to pay it forward.”
Devon even got his school involved and asked schoolmates to donate books.
“I know the kids don’t really deserve what is going on (in their lives) and books help them go to other places,” Devon shared. “Books are fun and help them get smarter.”
He was able to collect 258 books to fill those shelves.
“I told everyone how many kids my Mom sees a month and that they need good books like we like to read,” Devon said.
Devon had a fun party, sharing games and cupcakes with family and friends, but the best part, Devon said, was the feeling he got from giving.
Claire Nguyen, age 11
Last year the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma distributed 52 million pounds of food throughout central and western Oklahoma. Those pounds are lovingly packed by volunteers. Eleven-year-old Claire Nguyen volunteered with her Girl Scout troop packing kid-friendly foods for the food bank’s Food for Kids program. She had so much fun she decided to have her 8th birthday party at the volunteer center and she invited several friends to help her.
“It was so much fun and so easy to help people,” Claire shared. “You get to talk while you work and listen to upbeat music.”
Claire’s party was such a success she volunteered again for her 10th birthday but this time she invited family. They were able to pack 2,000 pounds of food.
“Claire felt like she accomplished something big,” Claire’s mom, Jessica Nguyen, said.
“I liked knowing the food was ready to go to people in need,” Claire said.
Addy Riemer, age 13
As Addy Riemer and her parents were planning her 10th birthday, Addy decided that she wanted to help The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital. So along with all the details for her skating party, she included a list of items that the hospital uses often for the kids in their care.
As they set out the pizza, cake and party decorations, they added a basket for guests to fill with diapers, wipes, soaps, towels, washcloths, books and more.
“It felt good donating the items to the children,” Addy remembered. “The best part was delivering my donation. Someone took my picture and they even posted it on their Facebook page.”
Addy has one thing to say to other kids considering a birthday fundraiser.
“Just do it! Giving to others has its own reward,” she said.
Addy took her own advice and collected food for a local pantry the next year for her 11th birthday and plans to continue to incorporate giving to others in her future party planning as well.
“Giving to others feels so good,” Addy shared.
Thinking of hosting a charity birthday party? Here are some great ideas:
- Collect clothing items for a local homeless shelter. Personal items like new socks are always needed and are an accessible and affordable item for party guests to contribute.
- Create your own online fundraiser for Make A Wish Oklahoma and help empower a child battling a life-threatening illness. Oklahoma.wish.org has an easy-to-use online fundraising option for specials occasions like birthdays.
- Spend a few hours stocking the shelves of the Hope Center in Edmond. Volunteers can sort groceries, clothing and household items.
- Collect backpacks and other school supplies for Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma City’s only school specifically serving homeless children.
- Invite guests to bring new and gently-used toys to stock the shelves of The Sharing Tree. Formerly known as The Christmas Connection, the non-profit serves families in need throughout the year a variety of ways.
- Collect diapers, wipes, formula or new baby bottles for Infant Crisis Services, an agency that provides life-sustaining assistance to babies and toddlers in need.