For most children, birthdays are all about parties and cakes and presents! For three-year-old twins Maya and Talitha that’s entirely true, with just one difference: they donate their presents on.

“We are very lucky to have all the opportunities in life to do anything we choose,” explains their mother Dulani.  “We have everything; therefore, we use any opportunity we have to give back to the community.”

When the girls turned two, the family donated to a hospital in a rural part of Sri Lanka that was establishing a neo natal intensive care unit (NICU).

“They needed a ventilator and we raised funds with donations in lieu of gifts for the girls. Talitha and Maya were born 9 weeks early and spent 6 weeks in the NICU and have grown up to be healthy thriving preemies.”

This year the family chose Cottage by the Sea as recipients of their bighearted gesture. Dulani found Cottage by the Sea through an internet search. “I was looking for a local charity that did something for kids so the girls can relate to it.” She contacted us at the Cottage and we were delighted with her generosity. We sent out some brochures which provided Maya’s and Talitha’s friends and family with lots of information about the Cottage and what we do. Everyone was extremely enthusiastic about the idea and got onboard with donations.

“You guys are doing a wonderful thing and giving so many kids some great opportunities and we are so happy to be able to contribute and be a part of it.”

The family brought the gifts down on a weekend when we had our first year REEF (Recreation, Education, Environment, Friendship) children at the Cottage. These grade sixes were more than happy to help carry toys, food and clothing from the car into our sorting shed, knowing how important these donations are to the Cottage and children like themselves.

With much appreciation from our chef and kitchen volunteers, the food went straight to the Cottage pantry soon to be eaten up by hungry campers. Many of the toys and all the clothes were passed on to our volunteers who make up goody bags for all the children who stay at the Cottage. Each child leaves Cottage by the Sea with a bag of gifts to take home with them. Depending on the donations we receive, the gift bag includes clothes, toys, story books, stationary and toiletries.

Some of the larger toys from Talitha and Maya went into our “presents cupboard” where we keep a stash of toys for children who happen to stay at the Cottage on their birthday. These children are thrilled to be spoilt by our staff when they’re here.

We asked Dulani how the girls felt about donating their gifts to charity. “I'm not sure they understand just yet,” she told us, “but it’s a part of something we are working on with them to teach them to be kind. This is something we will keep doing each year and when they are old enough we want them to participate in choosing a charity each year. We discussed that there are others who don't have things like they do and are not as lucky and fortunate, and we have to help those who are in need, help others grow.”

As an annual event in their family, Dulani is hopeful they have inspired others: “We do this every year and we get a pretty good turnout!”

Her advice to anyone considering donating in lieu of gifts is to “pick something that you are passionate about, everyone has a story and there is always someone in need out there you can relate to. Let your guests know your plans well ahead of time and make it easy for them.” You can do this by providing brochures or weblinks to information about the charity and even putting together a “Wish List” of the sorts of things the charity needs.

Everyone here at Cottage by the Sea was overwhelmed by the charity of Maya and Talitha in donating their birthday gifts. Thank you!