Cedar Lane Elementary fourth-grader Kellan Spencer used his birthday party on May 10 to collect toys, clothes and household items for local families in need.
Kellan Spencer celebrated his birthday on Saturday just like most boys his age.
His friends came over. They ate pizza and cake. Then they spent the afternoon bouncing away on inflatables in the backyard.
Yet the 10-year-old birthday boy never opened a single present, even though family, friends and total strangers brought enough gifts to fill the family’s three-car garage.
“This is exactly what I hoped would happen,” the fourth-grader at Cedar Lane Elementary said. “And it feels really good.”
Having told his family that he already has everything he could want, Kellan decided a few months ago to turn his birthday into a donation drive for families in need.
His mother, Megan, said she was surprised by the request, but agreed to follow through on Kellan’s birthday wish after it became clear he was serious.
Megan reached out to the American Red Cross and the local nonprofit Neighborhood House, which together referred her to four families in crisis. She then set up a Facebook page asking the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend community to drop off donations at Kellan’s birthday party this weekend.
She also received support from local businesses, which ended up donating or discounting items, including Jump On Over, Pretzel Boys, Capriotti’s, Willey Farms, Papa John’s, Acme and Giant Foods. Odessa Fire Company even brought tables, chairs, one of its ladder truck and a $100 donation.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get as many people come out as I thought we would, mostly I’m guessing because of the rain,” Megan said Saturday. “But we still got way more donations that I ever expected. It’s just incredible.”
Among the guests who did attend the party was Donna, who was selected by Neighborhood House as one of the recipients of Kellan’s goodwill.
A single mother of two who is battling Stage IV cancer, Donna asked to have her last name withheld.
But, she said, it was important to her to publicly thank Kellan for his generosity.
“I wanted to come and show him how he’s affecting someone’s life because it’s so beautiful and so selfless what he’s done here today,” she said, wiping away tears from her eyes. “I’m not really comfortable with receiving things like this, but it’s so nice and so humbling, especially coming from a 10-year-old. It really gives you faith that there are good people out there.”
Marilyn Hendershot, the family services coordinator at Neighborhood House, said she also has been impressed by Kellan’s generosity.
“If this is what he does when he’s 10, I can’t imagine what he’ll be like when he gets older,” she said. “And as wonderful as this is, just think about how he’s influencing his friends and classmates.”
In fact, several of the boys who attended Saturday’s party said Kellan’s birthday wish had helped to convince them to take on similar efforts.
“I think he’s really cool because I never would have thought of doing something like this,” 9-year-old Chris Alfano said. “But since he’s already done it, I don’t think it would be right to copy him. So instead, we’ve been talking about selling lemonade this summer and saving money for other kids.”
Nine-year-old Brayden Mackenzie said he’s also working on his own twist on Kellan’s birthday wish idea.
“Me and some of my neighbors have been talking about gathering pet supplies for our birthdays and then donating them to an animal shelter,” he explained. “It’s kind of the same idea but different.”
Kellan, meanwhile, looked over the donated toys, clothes and household items that filled five, 55-gallon bins in his garage and decided he also could do more to help.
“I definitely want to do this again,” he said. “I mean, my 11th birthday is only a year away.”