Birthday Give Back



A note from Liz:

My goodness are birthdays fun. Partially because of cake and camaraderie, but also because I have made birthdays a dedicated day of giving in my life and for that reason, they feel extra special.


It started when I was a little girl. I received an invitation to my best friend’s birthday party. The card said that in lieu of presents, she wanted donations to our local Humane Society. My mom and I went to the store and picked out blankets and dog treats and cat litter.


It was perhaps my first glimpse into the idea of birthday giving. Eight months later when my own eighth birthday rolled around, I did the same thing. Birthdays have never been the same.


When I started doing more work with The Smile Project, I recognized the opportunity to share the idea of birthday give backs even more. As I sat down to write the reflection of the 2019 event, I decided to take it an extra step, and reflect back on how far it’s come.

In 2015, for my 21st birthday, I encouraged people to do acts of kindness from a newly created Smile Project Instagram account. It wasn’t hugely successful, but the precedent was set. Birthdays would always be for giving.

In 2016, for my 22nd birthday, and my first birthday in New York City, I signed up for dozens of birthday freebies around Manhattan and then gave them out to strangers and friends.

In 2017, for my 23rd birthday, I decided to focus outward, on other nonprofit organizations whose mission I was passionate about. I wanted to raise money for them. Even if people were not in the position to make a donation, I wanted to share the amazing work the groups I highlighted were doing.

In 2018, for my 24th birthday, I took on perhaps the biggest challenge yet. I spent 24 straight hours that Sunday volunteering in and around New York City from midnight to midnight. I took Monday off work.

In 2019, for my 25th birthday, a dear friend suggested I try to get 25 people in 25 cities to do 1 kind act for someone else. I ran it by another friend and trusted Smile Project advisor and was off to the races.