The Gift Of Giving Back

It’s never easy
planning a birthday party for your child, no matter the age. This year,
consider thinking a little out of the gift-wrapped
box by requesting donations in lieu of gifts from party guests. Some New York
City organizations have been noticing this unique celebration as an inspiring
new trend. Here, three charities give their take on the idea. But don’t forget,
as you contemplate incorporating this new tradition, be sure to keep the focus
of the day on the birthday boy or girl—after all, it’s his or her celebration!

Baby Buggy, founded by Jessica Seinfeld and now in its 10th
year, works with a network of more than 50 community-based organizations to
distribute new and gently used items to families in need. “We were created as a
mechanism for families to give back,” explains Executive Director Katherine

Baby Buggy operates with
a small but solid staff, ensuring that 84 cents on every dollar donated goes
straight to helping families. “Our motto is Love. Recycled,” says Snider. “This
message of giving donations in lieu of birthday gifts is a great extension of
[that] motto.”

WHAT TO GIVE Gently used or new
items. This summer, in honor of
their daughter’s first birthday, one Manhattan family raised over $2,100, and actors Ana
Ortiz and Ali Larter both recently held their baby showers to benefit Baby

Snider suggests a
combination of gifts and donations. Buy your child a special present of his
choosing and also ask birthday guests for donations. “You get something but you
also give something,” says Snider.

Visit for more information. 

charity: water sees about 51% of their online fundraising
campaigns as birthday campaigns. “Every year we have very young kids who decide
to give up their birthday gifts,” says Merry McCarron, Online Community
Manager. “It’s amazing to see how kids connect with the cause—clean water is
very much a children’s issue.”

charity: water is a
non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean, safe drinking water to
people in developing nations. To date, charity: water has funded 4,282 water
projects that will benefit 2,060,000 people in 19 countries.

WHAT TO GIVE Campaigners of all ages, although younger kids
need their parents’ permission, are encouraged to participate. Five-year-old
Tariku, recently adopted from Ethiopia, raised over $5,200 last year. “Tariku points
to the computer at the end of the video when the kids get clean water with a
look of pure joy on his face,” says McCarron.

We all know that we
live in a world of excess so it’s no surprise that many parents welcome the
opportunity to teach their children about helping others who don’t have the
same privileges or resources. “There’s a real movement among middle schoolers
and high schoolers to make an impact through charitable giving and fundraising,
whether that’s by giving up their birthday, getting their school involved or
forming a group with their friends,” says McCarron.

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Ronald McDonald
House New York
intimate tours in an effort to show how their donations help families, like Ben
Brewer’s, battling pediatric cancer. “New York City has some of the most
creative donors and volunteers around,” says Director of Communications,
Natalie Greaves.

Ronald McDonald House
New York provides a temporary home-away-from-home for pediatric cancer
patients and their families. It is the largest facility of its type in the

WHAT TO GIVE “Believe it or not, families have been donating
birthday and bar/bat mitzvah money for the more than 30 years that we’ve been
in existence,” says Greaves. You also can use the House “wish list” to ask for
specific in-kind donations.  

Because of the impact of their donations and
their time spent touring the House, families tend to build upon the experience
by organizing new service projects. “Families feel a collective sense of pride
and fulfillment,” says Greaves. “We’ve seen some of these kids go on to start
new projects at school where they engage their classmates, and from there
you’re seeing future leaders in action.”

Visit for more information.