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Families forgo presents in order to donate to charity

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The youngster didn’t unwrap a pile of trinkets and dolls for her birthday.

Instead, guests at Kathleene Thomas’ birthday party brought canned food to donate to the Interchurch Food Pantry.

At a party for a 5-year-old in Greenwood, parents asked guests not to spend money on action figures and toy cars. Instead, donations to a college savings account for the boy would be most appreciated.


Families across the nation and across the county are hosting present-free birthday parties.

Some parents say their child has too much stuff and they are tired of throwing away or donating toys that have been played with once or left in the package.

Other parents want their children to see that a birthday is for more than receiving gifts and that money spent on a birthday gift could be better used elsewhere.

“We were getting gifts that were played with a few days and then it was at the bottom of the toy box,” Emily Cornpropst said.

So, the Greenwood resident decided she would do something different for her son Dallas’ fifth birthday party.

Guests were asked to join Dallas at an indoor trampoline park. Instead of buying him a gift, they were asked to make a contribution to his college savings account.

Their friends and family gave about $250, which the boy’s parents matched.

Everyone won, she said.

They plan to make it a tradition for Dallas’ 10th and 15th birthday parties.

Asking for a contribution to a college savings account allowed relatives to show love to their child through a gift, she said.

“More than saying ‘no gifts please,’ (friends and families) want to show love to this child,” Cornpropst said. “We are more about the memories, too.”

Hosting gift-free birthday parties is becoming a philanthropic trend, some families said.

April Thomas has had gift-free birthday parties for years for her daughter, Kathleene.

Grandparents purchase gifts for the Waverly resident, but friends and other relatives are asked to make a donation to the charity of Kathleene’s choice.

Friends have brought canned goods to a Scooby-Doo themed birthday party to be donated to the Interchurch Food Pantry in Franklin and Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s food bank. Pet supplies have been stacked alongside the cake, to be donated to the Humane Society of Johnson County.

Going present-free was easy, Thomas said.

“It was just an overload of toys. We had to scale back,” she said.

Getting others to accept a present-free decree can be harder, families said.

Julia Dahl, a sophomore at Center Grove High School, gave up gifts for Christmas two years ago and will do the same for her 16th birthday later this summer.

She asked for cash, so she could donate it to diabetes research.

Most family members complied, but not all were happy at first, Dahl said.

“At first the reaction wasn’t the best,” she said. “Relatives told me that they wanted to buy a gift and see my reaction.”

A classmate gave up birthday gifts and used her money to buy Bibles, which she gave to people in Indianapolis.

Remembering the joy she had when she gave up Christmas gifts and the idea from her friend has Dahl looking forward to her birthday party in August when she will forgo presents.

“Listening to my friend do that, I realized how amazing it was,” Dahl said.

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