All Kaila Von Ellington wanted for her ninth birthday May 6 was a trip to Disney World, but such a gift was not in the cards for her family this year.
With nothing else on her wish list, Kaila decided that instead of receiving gifts herself, she would let others be the beneficiaries of her ninth birthday.
"I just figured I had all the stuff that I needed," Kaila said. "I decided to do donation drives instead of having a party and gifts."
Since February, Kaila and her family have collected items for charity as part of a birthday donation drive. Kaila will hold the last of three drop-offs as part of her birthday donation drive from 1 to 2 p.m. April 20 at the Grove Furniture Store, opposite Storybook Land on the Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township.
The Von Ellingtons have been collecting food, which they have donated to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, as well as clothes, furniture and assorted other items that they've donated to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and to the Alcove Center for Grieving Children and Families in Northfield for sale in its thrift shop.
When Kaila first told her parents of her idea in early February, they could hardly believe their ears, said her father, Kelly.
"We looked at each other and we said, 'Where did this kid come from?'" he said. "We just decided that's who she is. Then I cried, of course."
Unsure how to mount a donation drive, Kaila's mother, Tina, made a post on her Facebook page about her daughter's intentions. Support quickly poured in from her friends, who pledged to donate goods. The family also sent out fliers at Davenport Elementary School, which Kaila attends, and to their neighbors.
So far, the Von Ellingtons have dropped off 170 pounds of food for the food bank and several car and trailer loads of other items for the Alcove - and their house is still packed with more goods to be dropped off.
When she first got the idea to start her drive, Kaila had little idea just how far it would go, she said.
"I didn't think we were going to get as much as we did," Kaila said. "I thought just like, three drop-offs, but there's probably been like 10 so far."
In addition to friends and classmates, local businesses have gotten involved in the drive, including Blackwood-based DJ Brian Kania, who has donated his services at the drop-offs. A represenative from radio station WAYV also will attend the final drop-off April 20.
While Kaila's parents might have been taken aback by Kaila's decision, neighbor and donor Stanley Carr wasn't - and he is quick to praise Kelly and Tina as the reasons for their daughter's giving spirit.
"For a little girl like that, to have that kind of foresight, it just shows you the type of upbringing they have," Carr said.
While she won't be receiving any gifts for her birthday this year, Kaila will still celebrate, hosting two friends for a sleepover.
This year's donation drive, which wraps on Kaila's birthday, has meant a lot of work for her and her family. The family isn't sure whether they'll do something similar next year or in years to come, but what's certain, Kelly Von Ellington said, is that his daughter is a giver.
"I see her as the type helping out at the food bank, volunteering at the food bank," Kelly said. "In high school, in the Interact Club, doing community things. That's where I see her personality leading,"
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