Two 9-year-old best friends celebrated their birthdays recently, but there were no presents in sight.
Instead of guests bringing gifts, the two boys, Hayden Simco and Henderson Ealy, asked attendees to bring books, coloring pages and crayons that could be donated to kids in need.
The donations — each guest brought two to three different items — went toward supporting the CAPCA bookworm drive that will continue through Dec. 1 at Carolyn Lewis Elementary School, where the two boys attend.
"Thank you Hayden and Henderson for your generosity and support of such a wonderful program," the school posted to its Facebook page.
The idea for the party came from Henderson and Hayden’s mothers, Shaneil Ealy and Sara Tyler.
Shaneil said when they were planning the party she joked with Sara about the fact that the two boys didn’t need any more toys.
"A week later, this came out that [the schools] were doing [the CAPCA fundraiser]," she said. "It was perfect time."
The two presented it to the boys; Henderson jumped on it, but Hayden was a bit more unsure.
"He had no hesitation," Shaneil said. "I said, ‘are you sure you understand what this means,’ and he said ‘yeah, did you think I was going to say no.’ It really shocked me."
Sara said she had to sit down with Hayden and they discussed how much stuff Hayden had that he didn’t even play with and there were other kids out that that need things and wanted stuff too, which led him to be more willing.
"I think the more we kind of talked about it, I think Hayden kind of opened his eyes more to what that was all about," she said. "It was just a really neat thing. I think it kind of opened my son’s eyes."
Sara said it’s important for her as a mom, more now than she ever realized, to instill a giving spirit in her children.
For around five years, she said, she was a single mom who gave everything to kids because she just wanted them to be happy.
"I think that I kind of went a little bit over the top with a few things and I think now that we’ve settled in here and we’re in a new place, I feel like I’m realizing, ‘oh my goodness, I am raising some entitled children,’" Sara said.
During the summer she said she read a book about raising grateful kids in an entitled world and it made her understand that children aren’t born selfish, but as parents, they create that because parents give their kids what they want.
"I think this had made me realize that it is time to start thinking about others," Sara said. "We have enough. We don’t need all the things that we have."
She said at Hayden’s dad’s house during Christmas they get something they want, something they need and then have to give something away to somebody else and that has also helped give him a selfless sense of gratitude.
Hayden said he gave away a camera.
"Some people don’t get to take pictures as much," he said. "[It was] important so they can have memories."
Shaneil said it’s difficult to teach children gratefulness when they’ve never been without but one way they incorporate that into their home is through participating in the Angel Tree and serving during the holidays.
"Anything I can do to help them give," she said. "Always just teaching [Henderson] and showing him how to give so that he would want to do that on his own."
Hayden said it makes him happy to have helped collect the donations for kids who didn’t have anything and Henderson agreed.
"It makes me feel good because they have something to play with," Henderson said.