Ten months ago, we interviewed Jillian Haun, 18, because she gave away her birthdays, donating time to people in need on her special day. She inspired Frances and me to give away our birthdays. And our birthdays are here!  

On Dec. 5, I turned 13. For my giveaway, I accepted donations for the tuition-free Moody’s Jazz Camp instead of presents.
I chose Jazz Camp because it’s a place where kids like me find courage to stand up and create solos spontaneously. With everyone’s eyes on me, I follow my feelings and listen to the kids playing the background music. Soloing can make the shyest kid feel strong and musical. JJ Morgan, owner of Moody’s, said this little donation made him feel speechless and proud.


We invited Jenni Dewald’s fifth grade class at Truckee Elementary to give away their birthdays this year, too. All 29 of them! And to make it more fun, we asked them to write our column with us.  

We were excited how quickly they said yes. We asked ourselves what kind of kids agree to give away their birthdays that fast? They described themselves this way, proving to us that all kinds of kids can give: expressive, artistic, daring, competitive, colorful, energetic, funky, organized, small, smart, musical, athletic, funny, kind, ingenious, talented, sporty, confident, impatient, sarcastic, gullible, cool, and silly.

The students came up with their own pledge: “We, the kids of Mrs. Dewald’s class, pledge to give away our birthdays this year so we can touch the lives of others.”

For four weeks, the class imagined ways to give away their birthdays. Kids supported each other to know who they are and why they wanted to give. They read lots of Kids Give columns to learn the writing style. Jillian even joined us every week to help with the writing process. Each pledge aimed for detail, heart, and do-ability.

Frances Joy

I am grateful to have been a part of this whole transaction. I learned so much walking from desk to desk, leaning in, asking kids if they liked their ideas. I wish I had thought of some of them! It really showed me their personalities when they shared their challenges with me.

One kid was afraid he might not grow a year older if he gave away his birthday. Some kids were nervous they wouldn’t have any fun. One kid wanted to mow his neighbor’s lawn but his birthday was in the winter. I know how hard it is to write a pledge. I’m still writing mine.

As I write, one thing really sticks with me: The kids didn’t magically make their pledges appear. Their pledges had something real to do with their lives.

I am realizing it’s good to sacrifice, to feel an ache. I love my clothes and I love giving, but I’ve never given away my clothes. On my birthday, I will give my good-quality clothes to kids in need. One of the fifth graders I met, Rachel Garcia Apolinar, is giving away her hair to people with cancer. It’s not like I’m doing that, but I do feel the twinge of giving.  

On Jan. 17, I will turn 11. It might be the best day I’ll ever have, and it will also be another day to give.

Mrs. Dewald’s Fifth Grade Class Birthday Giveaway Pledges

Justin Morris, 11

For the second year in a row, I will celebrate a homeless kid’s birthday at a homeless shelter in Reno. I will give presents and cake just like a normal birthday party and a scavenger hunt for all the little kids. I want to give them a real birthday because they have not had one before. I want the homeless kids to just have fun.

Jaime Lopez Sanchez, 11

I am gong to help my neighbor. I will help her around her house. If it snows I will clean her driveway and clean her satellite so she can watch TV. I want to give to the elderly people because they are lonely. Many have lost their husbands or wives. They don’t have anyone to talk to and they feel alone. I want them not to feel alone.

Kassidy Hyatt, 10

For my birthday giveaway I am going to visit the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. My five friends and I will help out with the dogs by walking, feeding, playing fetch, and giving them baths. I want to help all the dogs so they know that people still care for them. I have a dog of my own and love him very much. He’s super special to me and there are many other special dogs in the world I want to help.

Hayden Sumner, 10

I am going to help one of the nicest neighbors in Truckee. I will help him clean his lawn when the snow melts. I want him to know he is cared about and I want him to have an easier day.

Zaira Mora, 10

I will give away my birthday at the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. I will take care of dogs and play fetch with them. I will also try to foster a dog for my birthday week. I don’t have a dog but I wish I did. I think it would be nice to have a friend at home. I want to help animals because some dogs are really sad and I want dogs to be happy.

Juan Zarate, 10

Me gustaria ayudar a los ninos en preschool en Truckee Elementary a jugar futbol. Hay unos ninos que no saben y me gustaria ensenarlos a jugar porque me siento feliz cuando yo juego con ellos. Para que ellos sepan jugar y juegen con su familia.

Jonathon Valdivia, 10

I will give my birthday away to an old man who lives by me. I want to help him clean his house. He has a sore back and it is hard for him to clean. He is always struggling and I want him to feel happy.

Anayanzy Ortiz, 10

I will provide for my neighbor by helping her walk her cat and bake cookies with her. I want to give my neighbor care because she lives alone with her cat and her family doesn’t visit her much. My neighbor is nice to me and I want to give her some niceness too.

Vivian Pierce, 10

I am going to collect money for kids to go skiing at Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area. I will collect money to pay for snow play, gear rentals, or lift tickets for one or two children who might not be able to afford it. I will work with the office at my school that helps kids in need. I will do this because I know how to ski and I want to share the experience. If someone were to do something like this for me I would appreciate it, so I will do it for someone else.

Annabelle Bokinskie, 10

For my birthday I will go to the humane society and walk their pets. I want to help them because the animals there might be lonely and need love. I love dogs because my dog is  playful and when her tail wags it makes me joyful, and I want other dogs to feel that love, too.

Natalie Lang-Ree, 10

I am going to pick up trash by Donner Lake. I will provide the lake with cleanness so the animals will be able to swim without running into trash every 3 feet. This is important to me because I want the animals to be safe and the lake to be clean. The animals deserve to not have to see all this gunk in their home. The animals deserve innocence because they did nothing wrong. We humans did. Picking up trash will help put an end to pollution and the suffering of fragile animals.

Sebastian Hall, 10

I am going to a senior center. I will make the old people feel happy and make them laugh. I will tell jokes and stories. I don’t want them to feel sad every day, and that their lives are over. I will let them feel not forgotten. I will do this because my grandma used to be in a senior center and my aunt decided to let my grandma live with her. I want to give back for what my aunt did.

Taylor Hollis, 11

I am going to visit the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. I will bring my mom and my brother to help me pet the cats. I enjoy my time with cats and want to give them happiness. I want them to live a happy life while they’re there. I want them to feel good about themselves. I adopted two cats and now they are very happy. I hope all the cats get a good home some day.

Emily Monson, 11

I will go to the Animal Ark in Reno to give them a spark of hope. I want to give the animals something they can look back on and have warmth in their heart. I hope the caring I give will never leave them. I had a dog that passed away a couple of years ago and he gave me a present I will never forget and I want to give animals a present just like he gave me.

Collin Wadsworth, 10

I will run for cancer and it will take place at beautiful Lake Tahoe. I will use my birthday money to pay for new shoes for those patients in the race. I want to do this because I want them to get out and have fun and run. I want them to know that there are people willing to help them so they don’t feel forgotten.

Anson Wapstra Scott, 11

I will give away my birthday by shoveling snow for my loving neighbors. These neighbors try to make conversation whenever they see my family and me. If I do this they can relax more on the holidays. That way if they need to go somewhere they won’t have trouble. I will wipe off the snow on their car so they can see out and won’t have to waste time heating up their windshield. These people live here year-round and they’re getting older so it’s harder for them. I would like to make someone’s life a little better.

Stevie Barron, 11

I will help my neighbor by helping him clean his house and walk his dog. I want to help him even before my birthday because he is old and alone. I feel sad in my heart. If I were him I would want someone to help me.

Sofia Zansagna, 10

I am going to give money to the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. I will also go with a group of friends and play with the animals because I think that every animal deserves quality care. With more money and attention I think we can help them feel comfortable and content.

Josh Lopez Apolinar, 10

I am going to help a senior in my neighborhood. I am going to clean her house and spend time with her. I want to help my neighbor because she struggles each and every day being alone. I don’t want her to be forgotten.

Jamie Martinez Juarez, 11

I am going to help an older couple by baking cookies and putting frosting on them and swirling all that soft dough into shapes. I also want to draw animals, trees, and the beautiful light sun with them. I care about old people because they are alone and they don’t have people to help them. They need love from children who have lots of joy, warmth, and energy.

Alondra Villa Avila, 10

I am going with my friends to visit the hospital and give every kid a plant or flowers so they can feel spring and be happy. I want to help children in the hospital because they don’t have kids to play with them. I would love to play with them for an hour so they can know I am there for them.

Rachel Garcia Apolinar, 10

I am going to donate my long hair to Saint Jude’s Hospital in Reno so they can make beautiful, thick brown wigs out of my hair. I want to give to people with cancer so they know people care about them and are thinking about them. I want them to feel loved so they don’t feel alone.

Viri Heredia Zarate, 10

I will give my birthday to people that have cancer in Reno. I will help them by visiting them in the hospital. I know how it feels. My mom had cancer, too. If the family has any pets, I will offer water and feed their dogs or cats. If it is a dog I could take it to the park with my pit bull. She is very friendly. When my mom had cancer, people helped us and now I want to help others.

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