It’s true there are many stories on ECHOage that make us cry, laugh, sigh. This one is unique, and worth retelling, it made us all stop and say: “Wow”. In the words of Victoria’s mom Amy, here is the story:
We live in a great house in East York, just a few blocks from Michael Garron Hospital where Victoria was born. The hospital is also where Victoria was cared for after a recent fall at school. Victoria fell and hit her head. Paramedics were called and she and I rode in the ambulance together. Victoria was captivated by the paramedics, who made her feel safe when she was scared and hurt. One of them had a crazy moustache, which Victoria thought was just about the coolest thing ever. When it was time to plan her birthday, we talked about ECHOage. Victoria said she wanted to “help kids and babies where I was born, and where “the moustache” helped me when I fell”. One of Victoria’s classmates’ dad is a police officer. When he heard about Victoria’s generosity, he felt compelled to track down “the moustache”. He found him! And he was able to come to Victoria’s birthday party to say “thank you” in person for Victoria’s donation to the hospital. They even let Victoria and her friends explore the ambulance!
Victoria has spastic dilpegia, a type of cerebral palsy (CP). CP affects everyone differently. For Victoria, she has very tight muscles in her legs, which make it difficult to walk. She wears leg braces and uses a walker to get around. Recently, we have been borrowing a used ice sledge so that she can go on school skating trips at our local arena. For her birthday, she received her very own, made-just-for-her ice sledge.
Happy Birthday To Victoria from the whole team at ECHOage! You made us cry, laugh, sigh. We’ll all be thinking of you throughout the holiday season, of you, your amazing generosity, of “the moustache” and the ice sledge. Thank you Victoria and Amy. XOXO ECHOage
Today Avery is our Hero. Here’s Why…While going through the list of charities on ECHOage, Avery’s Mom explained that Because I Am A Girl is a charity that help little girls around the world have the same rights as boys. By supporting this charity, Avery would be able to help girls go to school and have healthcare the same as the boys. When she heard that other little girls didn’t have the same right as boys she said “That’s not fair! Girls should have all the same things that boys do. I want to pick this charity.”‘
Stina Hamlin, a local NYC mom of a 6yr old girl and 2yr old boy, is heading up the New York office. A career television producer and long-time user of ECHOage, Stina approached co-founders, Debbie Zinman and Alison Smith, to head up a U.S. branch in New York City. The result is an exciting collaboration that brings ECHOage’s joy of giving AND celebrating to America! Stina’s experience in marketing, creative content production, and her status as one of the early adopters of ECHOage in Los Angeles, and now New York City, adds her expertise and enthusiasm to the ECHOage team. “I am ecstatic about being a part of a company and philosophy in which I truly believe. I have used ECHOage for my children’s parties for 6 years and have raised almost $2000 for charities they chose teaching them valuable life lessons while having fun. I am looking forward to expanding the ECHOage mission in the U.S. and NYC!” says Stina Hamlin of ECHOage NY.
Photo Credit: Toki Lee Photography – http://www.Tokileephoto.com
How does it work?
Loved by busy families, ECHOage is an online birthday party website with a charitable twist. Instead of your average paperless invite, after customizing their invitation, kids choose a charity. Guests are then invited to make a contribution. Half of the funds raised will go to the charity of the child’s choice, while the other half goes towards super-fabulous birthday presents.
Co-founders Debbie Zinman and Alison Smith wanted to modernize the birthday party experience. They were done with spending more time searching and shopping for birthday gifts than hanging out with and enjoying their kids. They didn’t want to be the Scrooges of birthday parties, but it felt like the birthday party madness was getting out of hand. So they made a commitment to making parties more rewarding for the kids and less work for the parents. By combining the good feelings of giving with the fab feelings of receiving, they knew they were on to something.
Meet Leo: A five-year-old birthday hero
Leo was always an animal lover. Stuffed animals, zoo animals, or farm animals, if it was furry and had four-legs, Leo was ready to take it home. His first word wasn’t Mom or Dad, it was “doggie”. In fact, the only thing he loved more than dogs (and tigers) was his birthday. When he had a chance to put the two things he loved most together, he leapt at the opportunity.
For Leo’s fifth birthday, he and his parents decided to ECHOage his party. Leo was excited to do something different — and make a difference.
How one family made the ECHOage experience their own
For Leo’s parents, throwing their son an ECHOage party was a no brainer. Together, they uploaded a picture of Leo and chose a blue soccer themed invitation. Then they checked out the carefully curated list of local and national charities. And what a list it was! Leo couldn’t believe how many there were to choose from: SickKids to Make-A-Wish, Best Buddies to Children’s Aid, to Indigo Love of Reading Foundation and, of course, animal charities, like WWF, Jane Goodall Institute, and WSPA Canada. Every charity on the list spoke to him in a meaningful way.
The charity part
After careful consideration, Leo chose COPE Service Dogs, an Ontario-based organization dedicated to empowering communities through the use and training of service dogs. Kids struggling to get through high school help train puppies to become service dogs. They visit hospitals, nursing homes and classrooms with the dogs. Once the dogs are fully trained, they’re placed with people with mobility issues and other challenges.
Even at five years old, Leo knew this charity was important: kids working with dogs to help other people really resonated with him. He couldn’t wait to be a part of it.
The gift part
Once the charity was chosen and the invitations emailed, Leo and his parents were able to track who was coming to his party, and how much money they were raising for their charity — and for his super special gift. Other birthday parties had brought with them the usual pile of presents. Some wanted, others, less so. They still had gifts leftover from previous birthdays and holidays. Leo’s mom, Carolyn, knew that all her son really wanted was a drum kit. A real drum kit, not the “kiddie” kind.
By combining all the guests’ contributions she’d be able to buy him the dream gift she’d never have been able to purchase on her own. Instead of a slew of toys that might completely overwhelm her son, he’d be getting the one present he really, truly wanted.
The big day arrives
On the big day, Carolyn had her guest tracker handy complete with phone numbers, special concerns, even allergy alerts. Parents arrived relaxed, knowing the birthday gift was taken care of. And, of course, the playing field was leveled as each guest privately contributed to Leo’s charity and his present. No boxes big or small, nothing to cart back to the car — or to return. Just birthday cake and happy faces.
Happy kids, happy parents
The party was a huge success in every way. As one guest noted, “we just needed to RSVP and show up! Instead of spending hours wandering the aisles in search of the perfect present — at the perfect price point — everything was taken care of. What a relief.”
The kids had a great time, while all the parents loved how simple the entire ECHOage process was. Leo may have been the first one in his gang to ECHOage his party, but judging from the parents’ grateful reactions to such a convenient party, Carolyn knew he definitely wouldn’t be the last.
The celebration continues
When Leo returned home, he found a shiny new drum kit waiting for him. He couldn’t have been happier. Carolyn received a friendly email from ECHOage reminding her to thank her guests and to close her party. With a click of her mouse, she was done. A few days later, a cheque arrived in the mail. When Leo saw it, Carolyn explained that the same amount had been sent to COPE Service Dogs.
Leo’s face lit up. “Mommy”, he said, “I feel like a hero”. And he was. At five years old, Leo had learned what it felt like to make a change. It felt different. Amazing. Special. His party was a blast, but the whole experience was a life changer. When asked about it later, Carolyn exclaimed, “once you go ECHOage, there’s no going back”.
The news spreads
Word on the street spread. Leo told his pals all about his cool party and his awesome drum kit — just in case anyone missed the pounding bass sounds coming from the house! Sure enough, a few weeks later, Leo received an ECHOage invitation of his own, the first of many more to come. The simplicity of planning, the joy of giving and the fun of getting what kids really want sparked something in his friends and classmates. For Leo, his family, and their friends, ECHOage really was a better way to celebrate!