second-grader donates birthday gifts to animal shelter
For most 8-year-olds, a birthday party means scoring some new toys. But for Alex Cisneros, his party was about helping animals waiting for a home at the Loudon County Animal Shelter.
The idea began on Christmas Day, Alex's mother, Miki Cisneros, said.
"On Christmas, we were sitting on the sofa waiting for my sister to get ready to go over to my grandmother's house and he saw one of those ASPCA commercials and started crying," she said. "I was like, 'Honey, why are you crying?' He said, 'Nobody is helping the animals and they are so sad and they're hurt.' He was just in tears. Every time he sees the commercials he just cries."
A couple of weeks later, Alex and his mother decided to host a birthday party where instead of receiving gifts for himself, friends could make donations to the shelter.
"When I sent out the party invitation I included a wish list from the animal shelter. I wrote instead of gifts Alex would like everyone to bring something for the animals," Miki said. "His invitations on the front said, 'Come to a doggone party' or something like that."
About a dozen of Alex's friends attended the March 4 party.
"It was probably twice more than we expected. We are fortunate most people that were there have pets or like animals. One of his little friends from school that wasn't able to make it to the party because he was going out of town brought stuff to school. He brought one Walmart bag full of stuff for the animal shelter and he brought Alex a football," Miki said.
"We let him open all of the donations as if he was opening gifts," she said. "He was just tickled to death at all the stuff he got. I think he was happier about the donations than the stuff for him."
Since the shelter is closed on Sundays, the Cisneros family dropped off the supplies the following Monday.
"He brought dog and cat toys, dog treats, dog and cat food, puppy and kitten food, Dawn dish washing liquid. He brought collars and a lot of different types of treats," Shasta Raby, manager of the Loudon County Animal Shelter, said. "He even started crying in the lobby when he started talking about it. It was so sweet."
Miki Cisneros said she is thankful for those who came to the party.
"Without their help we wouldn't have had that much stuff. I wanted to acknowledge them. It was definitely a group effort," she said.
Even though he was only there for about 30 minutes, Alex stopped by every animal in the shelter, giving each one a treat or a toy. "I fed the dogs and cats some food, and I gave them toys," Alex said.
Raby gave the Steekee Elementary School second-grader a VIP tour of the facility.
"We showed him all around. He said he wanted to make them happy while they were here and he asked if he could give them a treat or a toy. The ones that already had toys he made sure they got a treat," she said. "He was a little bit afraid of them, you could tell, but it was something he really wanted to do."
Raby said the donation "means a lot."
"People donate to us all the time and it's nice to know that everybody cares about helping out the animals here and making them feel comfortable, especially when it is a child. This kid had no problem getting all of that stuff for his birthday and bringing it in here," Raby said. "I told him, 'You are one of the most unselfish 8-year-olds.' ... It was a really touching thing he did. He's got a really good heart."
Alex's mother said it wasn't an unusual act of kindness from her son. "He's always been really sensitive about stuff like that. ... He has always had a big heart. He has been the one where every little thing will get to him," Miki said.
In fact, helping out in the community isn't new to the Cisneros family.
"The only other thing we've done on this level was when my daughter was younger we got all of her toys and a retired police officer would clean and repair used toys and hand them out to the orphan kids for Christmas," Miki said. "I've wanted the kids to start doing stuff like this."
"We are going to try to do it on my brother's birthday, too," Alex said. And he told his mother he would like to do it again for his next birthday.
"I'm going to try to get my 6-year-old to do it. He is a little more selfish though," Miki said. "I'm proud of (Alex) mixing his birthday party to help the animals. That just made me happy for him to think of somebody beside himself on a day that is supposed to be about himself. I'm thrilled he would think about wanting to do it again."