On the face of it, the scene at the Legacy Park Community Center pool in Lee’s Summit, Missouri this past January looked like a normal birthday party. A handful of parents accompanied 65 rowdy 7 year-olds enjoying swimming, games and plenty of cake to go around. But there was something very special about this particular party. The stars of the party, twin sisters Morgan and Madison Goeser, decided to forgo all gifts and instead have attendees make donations to former street children in Bolivia and to a nearby school in inner-city Kansas City.
Their mother Julee got the idea for the party from a friend who raised books for an inner-city school during her 7 year-old's birthday party. Morgan and Madison liked the concept, but along with their younger sister Olivia, they decided they would take it a step further and help out street children in Bolivia as well. The girls had been very concerned about the plight of children living on the streets in Bolivia ever since Julee told them stories from what she had read in the book When Invisible Children Sing written by Kaya founder Dr. Chi Huang. "They have so little," said the girls, "no toys, house, bed or food and we have all of these things."
Overall the party was a great success. In addition to raising money for Kaya Children, the girls also collected 270 books, which they donated to a nearby inner-city school. "Everybody loved it," they said. "We got lots of cards and checks and cool books." While all the children clearly had a good time, many of the parents really liked the idea of a donation party. "I think it is wonderful the girls gave up their gifts to benefit others," said Chandra Fender, one of the parents in attendance. "I am going to take the example for my daughter's birthday this year, too!"
Morgan, Madison, Olivia and Julee discovered a great way to support Kaya's work, but they also did something much more meaningful. Children coming off the streets into Kaya's programs typically have never celebrated their birthday before. For this reason, the Kaya staff does everything possible to make birthdays special for these children as a way to show them they are loved and that their lives are important. When Morgan and Madison decided to dedicate their birthday to help former street children, they also sent a message of love that means far more than any financial gift. As they put it, "It makes us happy because we made other kids happy."