We could all learn a little something about the holiday spirit from third grader Sivana Athanas. The nine-year-old recently donated her birthday gifts to Toys for Tots, and the local police department happily shared the news via Facebook.
“Last night 9-year-old Sivana, who is a third grader at Wessagussett School, came to the station and dropped off a whole bunch of toys for the Toys for Tots program,” the Facebook post reads, via CNN. “The remarkable thing about this story is that the toys that Sivana donated to Toys for Tots were gifts that she had just received for her birthday! What a wonderful gesture. Happy Birthday Sivana and Merry Christmas from all of us at the Weymouth Police!”
Toys for Tots is run by the Marine Corps Reserve, and its aim is to provide gifts to children whose families are unable to afford a holiday haul. While donations are fairly common, it’s unusual for children to donate their own gifts. Indeed, the Weymouth Police couldn’t recall a similar gesture in recent memory.
“It was such a selfless act by her,” Detective Timothy Browning told the local Patriot-Ledger. “She’s such an amazing little girl to do that.”
In this case, the charitable habit may well run in the family. Sivana’s mother, Marissa Leavitt, founded an organization called the Baby Nicholas Foundation after her son tragically passed away as an infant. The charity offers aid to families that have similarly lost a child, and Sivana has reportedly helped her mom collect donations.
“We’ve always talked to her about making sure she’s thinking about other people and not just herself,” Leavitt said. “I’m very proud of her.”
The Weymouth police were proud, too. They made a special delivery to Sivana’s school, bringing her a certificate of recognition and a Visa gift card worth $100.
“She didn’t expect it,” Leavitt noted “I think it made her feel good about herself.”
Toys for Tots partners with a number of companies, including Hasbro, Build-a-Bear Workshop, The UPS Store, ToysRUs, Disney and Macy’s. Per the program’s website, “Over 97% of your donations goes to our mission of providing toys, books, and other gifts to less fortunate children.”
To date, Toys for Tots has given more than 494 million toys to at least 230 million children. As the site notes, “While Toys for Tots Coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.”
Add Sivana to the lift of generous donors who’ve made the program so successful.
Her story has done somewhat viral and attracted the attention of local and national media alike. One can only hope Sivana’s story inspires others to give in one form or another.
The good news is that giving appears to be on the rise. In 2014, USA Today cited statistics from the Blackbaud Index indicating that charitable donations had increased 1.8 percent over the previous years for the stretch from July through September.
“As the economy has recovered, people tend to give more,” InterAction CEO Sam Worthington explained at the time. “We also are more aware of the challenges others face. As Americans feel better off and yet recognize that others are in need, they tend to dig deeper into their pockets and help.”
The holiday season is indeed a reminder that others are in need. And many people respond accordingly.
“Many of our members are dependent upon a good holiday season for a large portion of their annual fundraising,” Worthington added. “There’s the practical aspect, which is that it’s the end of the year and people want to make sure their giving is done before a new calendar year, and there’s the fact that we spend time with our families, we think about others and want to have an impact on the world around us.”
Suffice it to say, Sivana has certainly impacted the world around her.