Celebrating a 15th birthday by helping others
On her 13th birthday, Madisyn Miller celebrated with a sleepover. When she turned 14, she and a friend got their makeup done.
Those were fun, but Madisyn had other plans for her recent 15th birthday: She invited her friends to volunteer in a warehouse for World Vision's U.S. Programs.
"I didn't want a 'party' party," explains Madisyn as she sorted personal hygiene products at the World Vision Storehouse in Fife, Washington. "I was always doing things for my community and thought this was a good idea."
She invited eight girls to help, including her 13-year-old sister, Alli. After donning orange World Vision volunteer T-shirts, the group spent three hours sorting and boxing school supplies and hygiene products that will be distributed to children and families in need. They also assisted educators picking up children's shoes and school supplies at World Vision's Teacher Resource Center.
The thought of helping others on her birthday started from a discussion about charities in Madisyn's freshman English class. Her mom, Melanie Miller, suggested she research World Vision.
Madisyn likes that World Vision serves others, "especially children and teachers," she says. "I thought it was cool to reach out to kids."
She told her mom, "Maybe I can volunteer." When they found volunteer opportunities listed on World Vision's website, they made arrangements to celebrate Madisyn's birthday party at the Fife warehouse, about a 45-minute drive from their home east of Seattle.
"You're helping out your community and those who are not as lucky as you are," Madisyn says.
What did her friends think of the community service birthday party?
"I was not actually that surprised," says Maddie McGavran. "It's just something Madisyn would do. It's really cool."
Ashley Mastin, who is in Madisyn's English class, agrees: "Instead of it being all about her, she wanted to give back. It's definitely nice to have a friend like that."
Several girls say that volunteering at food banks and other nonprofits makes them feel good—Ashley described it as joy—because they are aware that many people live in less fortunate circumstances.
After the girls finished their work—and before everyone went out to a spaghetti birthday dinner—Madisyn and her mom gave World Vision a bag of markers, crayons, pens, and other school supplies for the Teacher Resource Center.
"I was blown away," says Jim Peterson, World Vision's volunteer coordinator in Fife. "Knowing that Madisyn had decided to forgo a birthday party to volunteer..., the supplies were a wonderful bonus.
"The realization that a few young ladies could have an impact on other students, less fortunate families, and our programs, for years to come was exhilarating. I think our programs can go on for a long time with the help of our youth."