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My Son's Donation Birthday Party: Why It Worked!

Nov 7, 2012 at 3:42 PM Chime in now


Figgy was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect just before he turned three, four years ago in the fall. It was a rough and rigorous year for our family. We cancelled his birthday celebration that year because my husband couldn't take the sadness.

The next year, for his birthday, when he was all well and about to turn four, we had a huge party and pulled out all the stops at my aunt's house. We ordered organic mini hot dogs and buns, expensive spiced ketchup, organic juice, fruit and vegetable platters, and had games, friends, cousins, and tots attend. That year he got loads of extra presents.

Flash-foward four years. We are so very grateful that our Fig is here with us, and a thriving, normal boy today. By all accounts, he has a privileged life, in one of Toronto's nicest neighbourhoods, with nice-ish parents and a caring family that visits. He has friends, and although he's an only child, he has tonnes and tonnes of toys. Our flat cannot contain anymore toys, or belongings of any kind, really. It's hard for us to move, because our income has stayed small while the rents in the neighbourhood have gone up as much as the housing prices.

Every year on the anniversary of Figgy's heart surgery, which is February 23, I take to facebook and write a little commemoration in his honour. Something along the lines of: "Our Son's Heart Was Saved Three Years Ago And So Were We." I write it on the forms for school: No immediate health problems, completely normal, but he does have a history.

This year, for his birthday, we finally convinced Fig to ask for donations instead of toys. He was recalcitrant, like in other years, but something matured (we hope) this year and the advent of empathy bloomed. It helps that every year his school participates in a program whereby each classroom "adopts" a family for Christmas. Figgy wanted to give money to homeless children. We made a shortlist of charities, and decided that Sick Kids Hospital, with a designation to the 4D Heart Surgery department, made sense.

The day of the party, Figgy and I spent the morning colouring a box. He wrote Sick Kids on four sides, and my brother noted how professional the logo looked. Funny, kids are, with their super-branding aesthetic. On two other sides he drew portraits of him, and me. His skin the colour of caramel, mine like chocolate milk, both our hair coloured with the same Crayola dark chocolate-smelling fine liner. We coloured in a sprinkling of rainbow hearts. At the party, we were surprised. He still got a few gifts, but almost everyone gave a donation. Our invitation had suggested donations in lieu of presents. Sick Kids Foundation sent us envelopes and donation cards, which we are working through now.  Figgy, my newly-minted 7-year old, got extra gifts from us this week for his generosity.
He got lots from his grandparents, aunts and uncle, too.

As for his donations box, it garnered more than $200. Way to go, Figgy. The kids who spend time in the Hospital For Sick Children's cardiac ward will appreciate that, just as you did, three years ago.

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