by Bob and Sandy Weston
Wednesday, April 4, The Valley News had a picture of seven-year-old Michael Doney and Kelly Hayden.
Michael had just presented the Hayden family $200 in gift cards substituting for the birthday gifts that he would have received. The family had lost everything in a fire and Michael wanted to do something to help them out, especially because Kelly is Michael’s classmate at Volney Elementary.
We were so impressed by the generosity of this young man that we wanted to know more about him. Contacting his mother, we made arrangements to meet with Michael’s dad Mike, mother Renee and three-year-old brother Walker. In doing so, we also met Jake (their beautiful three-legged dog) and Coco the guinea pig. We didn’t get the chance to meet their elusive cat Stinky.
Sitting down with the family in their lovely country home, we came to realize what a special relationship they all had and how far beyond his years Michael was and is in recognizing the needs of others.
His mother had worked as a guidance councilor for Social Services for 12 years. At age two-and-a-half, Michael began asking his mother to tell him stories about the kids she worked to help.
His mom told Michael that she interacted with families where the children lacked blankets, adequate food and clothing amongst other things. Michael always asked her if there was a way that he could help other kids. Giving considerable thought to his question, his mother asked him if he knew how lucky he was.
When his third birthday was approaching, Michael told his mom that instead of receiving gifts at his birthday party for family and friends, he wanted to give gifts to others.
After discussing with Michael that there were kids who had serious health problems, his mom contacted the Make-a-Wish Foundation for him. A note went out to his invited guests stating that he didn’t want presents. Instead he asked them to bring spare change to donate to a worthy cause.
Michael’s first magnanimous gesture resulted in $77 being collected for ill children. He received a gracious thank you note and a calendar from the foundation showing some kids and what they did with the money.
Asking Michael how he felt about what he did, he said, “I felt really good to help them out.”
When he was about to celebrate his fourth birthday Feb. 4, six weeks after Christmas when Santa was very generous, Michael said that for this birthday he wanted his guests to bring coats, hats and mittens for kids that didn’t have them. No gifts for Michael; just gifts for others. Collected at his birthday party, several items were sent to Social Services for children in need.
Continuing his wish to help other kids, Michael asked his mom prior to his fifth birthday where he should give his presents this year.
It was the year of the devastating tsunami so it was known that so many people had lost most if not all that they owned including the most basic of items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.
For this birthday, the invitation specifically said not to bring any gifts; just the items he requested. Not knowing how to handle the items Michael collected, his mom contacted a nearby neighbor who was in charge of a Girl Scout group that was sending care packages and the items were sent.
His sixth birthday was no different than the others. He originally thought that he wanted to get blankets and items of this nature for the elderly.
Going over several different things, Michael finally decided that he wanted to buy games for the elderly. His mom contacted Michaud Nursing Home telling them what they wanted to do. She was told that being so close to Christmas, they didn’t need blankets or warm items but would be grateful to receive games.
The nursing home was having their game room redone and didn’t have any games. Along with the games, Michael’s guests were also very creative in bringing magnifying glasses and eye glass chain holders to his party.
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