The Cranford Community Center hosted a birthday party for a girl on Saturday, but there were no gifts. This is because Desiree Santos, of Cranford who turns 10 on Friday, believes the greatest gift in life is giving, not receiving. She exemplified this at her party where all of the activities benefited charitable organizations in Union County.
Each guest was not asked to bring a gift, but rather a donation. The children at the party were divided into five teams, where each group had an activity to do where the final product was donated.
The partygoers made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and rolled holiday silverware for Saint Joseph Social Service in Elizabeth.They also made cookies and holiday cards for seniors at the Cranford Health and Extended Care Center and made fleece blankets for animals at the Jersey Animal Coalition.
Jorge Santos, Desiree's father, said his daughter is not like most other children, because material things do not matter to her. Desiree enjoys helping others, he said. When he and his wife, Kristin, approached her about what she wanted do for her birthday, she gave a very mature response, Santos said.
“I want to help people,” Desiree told her father.
Her desire to help people stems from her ties to the Girl Scouts, Santos said. Once they realized what she wanted, the past two months were very hectic in planning, he said.
The birthday girl could not contain her excitement at the party, mingling with everyone and participating in all of the activities. For someone who prides herself on helping others this was a perfect opportunity to do so, she said.
“This is a party for helping others,” Desiree said.
When her dad and step mom first asked her about the party, she said she just wanted a typical one with cake and gifts, but then she changed her mind. She told Patch even though she is just a child, she has learned one valuable lesson in life: “being happy is contagious.” She said making other people happy makes her feel happy.
The Santos’ had aprons made for everyone that said, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Desiree said this is one of the most important things in life, because everyone can make a difference.
Robin Johnstone and Elise Lang brought their daughters Mary and Gabriel to the party and said they were impressed with the concept of the party, and thought it was amazing that everyone was helping the community at a birthday party.
“I think it’s a great experience,” Lang said. “They’re learning to give back.”
“It’s generous on Desiree’s part,” Johnstone added.