Montgomery youngsters give instead of receive on their big days
The Gazzette (Maryland)
Two upcounty youths celebrating different milestones this month showed that it really is better to give than to receive. Chance Leo of Germantown asked for donations to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital instead of presents for his 8th birthday party, raising $350 for the Rockville facility's pediatric unit. And Andrew Fink of Gaithersburg decided to take the giving component of his upcoming bar mitzvah to a higher level, collecting more than $1,500 for Israeli and Palestinian youths by organizing a basketball tournament.
"We raised Chance that way, that you give and if you don't have a lot to give, every little bit helps," Diane Leo said. "…This is not something you force on a child because there's going to be resentment and they're not going to get it."
Nancy Shulman, executive assistant at the hospital foundation, said she wasn't aware of any other donations from a youth birthday party.
"It's awesome, especially in this day and age when kids are so me-me-me, to have them do something for others," she said.
Youths preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs are required to do service projects to help them in their spiritual growth. Many choose to donate a portion of the money they receive from friends and relatives to charity, according to his mother, Amy Fink.
Andrew Fink, 12, who is preparing to celebrate his bar mitzvah, took the call to service even further — he organized a youth three-on-three basketball tournament in Gaithersburg earlier this month.
The money — $1,500 so far — went to PeacePlayers International, a nonprofit that organizes youth basketball tournaments in historically divided communities such as Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus and New Orleans. Andrew's efforts will fund two tournaments in the Middle East for Israeli and Palestinian youths.
"I really felt the connection there," said Andrew, who plays league basketball.
Andrew rented a gymnasium, made fliers, recruited teams, found sponsors, enlisted cheerleaders, collected entry fees and recruited a neighbor to design T-shirts for the 29 players. He also organized a pizza night at Potomac Pizza in the Kentlands, where 20 percent of purchases went to the Washington, D.C., nonprofit, and he plans to donate some of his own money as well.
"I feel like I've accomplished something," he said of the experience.
PeacePlayers donated prizes for the winning teams and his parents provided some organizational help, but Andrew was the driving force and did the bulk of the work.
"It's a fine line. As a parent I wanted him to do it himself, and he really rolled up his sleeves," Amy Fink said. "…As a parent, the greatest pleasure was afterwards he was like, ‘Wow, I just did that.' A 13-year-old can make a difference in the world."