Boys take food donations in place of birthday presents

Samuel Frew, left, and Elliott O'Brien, both aged 6, donated items to the City Mission's foodbank after they asked for ...
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Samuel Frew, left, and Elliott O'Brien, both aged 6, donated items to the City Mission's foodbank after they asked for food items instead of presents for their combined birthday.

They may only be six years old but two Christchurch boys have already learned the value of charity. 

Samuel Frew and Elliott O'Brien had a combined party for their sixth birthday and at the suggestion of their parents, the boys declined any gifts. Instead, they asked their guests to bring an item for the City Mission's foodbank appeal. 

The boys delivered two box-loads of food and $60 in cash donations to the mission. 

Foodbank co-ordinator Mary Wood said she was touched by the gesture.

"It doesn't often happen but it is amazing."

Last year, a 90-year-old woman dropped into the foodbank straight from her birthday party, after she asked for food donations instead of presents.

The Frew family started their initiative last year.

Samuel's mother, Kirsty Frew, said Samuel and his younger sister had a joint three and five-year-old birthday party with about 70 children.

They were given the option of a smaller party and presents or a bigger party and no presents.

Frew and her husband were happy to hire a hall but the mother-of-two hated the thought of getting 70-odd presents.

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"It made me physically ill," Frew said.

The family then looked into who would benefit the most from donations and decided on the City Mission.

"We put it to the kids and they were great with it. We explained to them that they have enough food to eat and they have plenty of toys."

When this year's birthday swung round, the family decided to once again replace presents with donations.

All 17 boys from the friends' class at Hillview School were invited to their combined Lego party at the Imagination Station.

"They all bought various different packets and a lot of them bought three to four items of food each," Frew said.

The children were all "excited" to see where the food went.

"It's a drop in the ocean to them but they will give it to those who need it," Frew said.

Samuel said he would like to do it again next year.

"If it encourages one other family – the more the better," Frew said.

Frew hoped the initiative would become an annual event, as long as the children gave it the green light.

"It was started by me and at the moment they are really happy about it but I don't want to enforce it on them."

Wood said collections for their annual brown paper bag appeal were up on previous years.

About 7000 bags had been donated to the food bank by businesses, retirement villages, church groups, schools and individuals, since the launch of the appeal.

"We could not survive without this help," Wood said.

In between donations, senior high school pupils from Christ's and Villa Maria Colleges and Cashmere High School had helped sort through the brown bags.

"I'm always impressed when kids come in their own time," Wood said.

 - The Press

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