Your birthday is the one day a year that’s all about you, with cake, presents, parties, and birthday wishes. But bed nets, too? They aren’t exactly an obvious fit for most people, but Evelyn from Virginia doesn’t see it that way. Lara Ivey recently shared with Nothing But Nets how her family uses birthdays to have “teachable moments” and make a difference in the world. Blessed with two beautiful, healthy children, the Iveys decided that each year birthdays will be a time for celebrating what they have and what they can share.
For the past several years, the oldest, Jacob, has used his birthday as a way to raise money and awareness for those in need. His younger sister Evelyn, who turned six this year, had been itching to take part in “birthday giving” like her big brother and decided she was now ready to take on this challenge. Rather than receive gifts, she admirably asked her birthday guests to make a monetary donation to Nothing But Nets to help prevent malaria. Evelyn knows that in 10 years she wouldn’t remember little gifts that were given, but she will definitely remember the feeling of giving to this worthy cause. Wise beyond her years, she says, “Children will die if they don’t have these nets, but I won’t die if I don’t have more toys.”
Evelyn had a roller-skating party with almost 40 people to celebrate her special day and raised more than $400 for bed nets! During the party, she was waiting in anticipation to open the cards and see how much she would be able to donate. At the end of the night, Lara told Evelyn how proud she was of her act of kindness. They talked about how 40 children would be able to sleep soundly under the protection of a bed net, and how that was like saving two classes worth of kids. When asked if she wished that she had received more gifts, Evelyn replied with,” No, Mom…I wish I had gotten more money so that I could help more children!”
In her email to Nothing But Nets, Lara told us:
It really got me thinking about the act of giving being like a foreign language. When adults wait too long to learn Spanish or French it’s extremely hard and often impossible. However, when young children learn a new language, they are like sponges and it becomes who they are. I think the same is true for the “language of giving.” We need to start with young children so that it is their native language. With the help of family and friends, Evelyn and Jacob are “bilingual!” We are truly blessed to be surrounded by those who help to make our children the best they can be.
After reading Evelyn’s story, I think about the forgotten and discarded gifts I’ve accumulated over the years, all with fleeting value and memories. What impact could I have made with the kind of generosity Evelyn has shown? Luckily, Nothing But Nets provides the opportunity to make an impact and save a life – no matter your age or past experiences. Evelyn has truly made a difference in the life of a child, and today, I can do the same. All it takes is $10 and a giving heart.