10-year-old donates birthday gifts to shelter

Ava, left, and her mother, Leslie, in Fort Collins. Ava donated her birthday gifts to a Catholic Charities shelter.

Many 9-year-old kids look forward to a 10th birthday party with great anticipation, imagining the presents, cake and fun with friends.

When Ava’s birthday was around the corner, she decided to do something different. Ava, from Fort Collins, wanted to donate her birthday gifts to needy children at the Catholic Charities’ shelter.

“I wanted to donate my gifts because I already had everything needed, and I knew that there were other kids that need things more than I do,” Ava said.

Ava has always had a giving heart, said her mother, Leslie Essay, about her and her husband’s oldest daughter.

“She’s very thoughtful and has a keen awareness of people around her,” Leslie said. “She’s very aware that she has a lot of really nice things and has plenty of everything.”

Giving to others has always been a focus for the family of four. They volunteer through their church, St. Joseph Parish in Fort Collins, and at the local food bank. Leslie’s own mother taught her the importance of giving at the local shelter when she grew up.

“Part of our faith is to recognize how blessed we are and share that with others,” she said. “Being able to donate items and time not only speaks volumes for our faith and continuing that, but it speaks volumes for what we’re supposed to be doing. The earlier you implement that in everyday family life, the more it makes you appreciative for what you have. And in giving, you will always receive.”

Ava, center, celebrated her 10th birthday with friends by
donating their gifts to Catholic Charities’ shelter.
Ava, center, celebrated her 10th birthday with friends by donating their gifts to Catholic Charities’ shelter.

Before her 10th birthday, Ava said she didn’t want a party. But her parents decided to throw her a surprise celebration and invite her friends. Leslie told the parents of the children to not bring a gift but items to donate to a needy child.

Ava was surprised and felt excited when she discovered the gifts were for others. Each friend brought a backpack filled with clothing, toys, coloring books, art supplies and more. After the party, Ava and her mother dropped the gifts off at The Mission in Fort Collins.

“Sometimes I feel unlucky but I know there are kids that have to live on the street,” Ava said. “I have a home, food, my bed and a lot of toys, I have everything I need. And plus, it’s the right thing to do."

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