BIRTHDAY PARTY ANIMALS: 6 YEAR OLD COLLECTS DONATIONS FOR SPCA
This little girl has an animal instinct for giving.
To celebrate her sixth birthday, in lieu of receiving gifts for herself, Asbury Park resident Leo Grillo chose to collect supplies for the Monmouth County SPCA.
Grillo is one of an increasing number of socially-conscious children of Millennials – the most philanthropic demographic the country has seen in generations according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
“We are noticing more and more children in the area bringing in boxes of supplies and donations with the help of their parents,” said Liz Jakubik, development director, Monmouth County SPCA. “Guardians and parents tell us their children are asking how they can get involved and help our animals. Birthdays have become the most direct and easy way for them to make an impact. What Leo did for her birthday was wonderful and very helpful.”
Grillo loves animals and when she and her parents, Seresa and Joe, began planning her party she brought up the idea of doing something to help dogs and cats waiting for their forever homes. Her mom logged on to the SPCA website and included the charity’s wish list in the party invitations.
“This was her idea and Joe and I just helped put it all together,” said Seresa Grillo. “She was inspired by her friends who did something similar and the cat we had that would sit with her on the couch and watch TV.”
But six year-old Grillo is not playing favorites in her quest to help companion animals.
“Every animal is my favorite animal,” said Grillo, in her first interview ever. “My friends thought it was the best idea ever (to collect items on the organization’s wish list).”
Grillo’s celebration was held at the Lake House Music Academy where she took the stage with her friends for an epic set list of a Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Bruno Mars tunes. After the TJ’s pizza and pink Hello Kitty ice cream cake was history, thanks to her guests, Grillo wound up collecting “a Mini Cooper carload full” of donations for the SPCA including food, toys, cat litter and treats. Her family also slid in a few well-deserved gifts for the birthday princess as well.
For the record, Grillo “loves, loves, loves,” Perry, Shopkins, the violin and gelato from the gelateria on Cookman Avenue. She says the gelato “tastes like unicorns.”
Animal charities are the top beneficiaries of children’s birthdays, according to Parents magazine. Many shelters host parties on-site. The Humane Society offers a birthday toolkit on its website (think serving hot dogs, etc.) and Pinterest has hundreds of inspiration boards dedicated to young party animals.
“Engaging children in philanthropy as early as possible helps them comfortably learn the world is bigger than their kindergarten class,” said Alex Tyfedo, philanthropy expert. “These parties are great way to teach and give back in a way that resonates with youngsters. It’s a win for the charities and kids.”
Grillo’s 23 energetic guests agree.
“I am very happy. I hope more of my friends do this too,” said Grillo. “We want all the animals to be happy when they wait for their nice forever homes.”
And if she adopted her own cats?
“I would name them marshmallow and hot chocolate,” said Grillo.
Seriously, what could be more perfect?