Former CCES student helped make birthdays brighter for kids

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Grayson McKinney’s community service project for a Floyd County organization last spring must’ve really made an impression on its leaders.

The Adairsville Middle School sixth-grader was mentioned last month in a newspaper article about Brighter Birthdays, a not-for-profit organization in Rome that ensures local underprivileged elementary school kids are not overlooked on their big day, celebrating its third anniversary.

It praised Grayson for collecting more than 500 cards for the organization as one of his National Junior Beta Club service projects last year when he was a fifth-grader at Clear Creek Elementary.

“We appreciate Grayson's efforts so much,” Cristin Warden, Brighter Birthdays founder and chief executive officer, said. “We are a small organization that is committed to helping children feel celebrated on their birthdays. Thanks to Grayson, 500 children received a birthday card. This may have been the only card that they received on their special day. Cards make everyone smile, and Grayson should know that he has helped 500 students feel celebrated.”

Clear Creek Beta Club adviser Robin Morrow said she was “very impressed” with the service project Grayson did for the organization.

“He took the project very seriously,” she said. “Each day he collected cards, made announcements, encouraged others to participate and was appreciative for everything he received. This project allowed him to exhibit his leadership skills and make a difference in the lives of others. I love when students find a unique way to use their talents to serve others. Grayson truly embraced the motto of National Junior Beta Club, ‘Let Us Lead By Serving Others.’”

Grayson, 12, said he learned about Brighter Birthdays from his grandma, who is friends with one of the members, when he was talking to her about the service projects he needed to do for Beta Club.

“She told me one of her friends was a member of Brighter Birthdays, and they were trying to collect about 3,500 cards to go in birthday bags for low-income children,” he said. “I decided that was the project I wanted to focus on.”

The son of Jessica and Paul McKinney of Adairsville set a goal to collect 1,000 homemade and professionally made cards and began figuring out ways to get the word out about his project. 

“To collect that many cards, I started with my neighbor,” he said, noting she was a fourth-grade Beta Club member. “I asked her if she needed any more service projects and if she wanted to help. I made up a box for her, and her mom took it to her work and collected cards from there.”

For his next step, Grayson wrapped boxes in birthday paper and took them to school.

“There was a collection box in each hall to collect the cards,” he said, noting he wrote an announcement about the collection that was broadcast to the students each day. “Most teachers had their students make cards, and we had several cards donated. I had collection boxes at school for at least a month to collect all of those cards.”

Finally, his mom, a paraprofessional at Clear Creek, would “share constantly on Facebook that I was collecting them” and asked people to message her when they had cards to donate.  

When he finished the project in May, Grayson gave the 500-plus cards — “a little over halfway” to his goal — to his grandma to deliver to her friend.

“I did not hit my personal goal of 1,000 cards, but when I look back, it did seem like a pretty high goal for a kid to make,” he said. “I was excited I made over half of the goal. I know I did the best I could. Every morning, I would go to every box and collect the cards and count them. I would keep a running total and let the office know where I was so they could tell the school during announcements.”

The project turned out to be very eye-opening for Grayson, who plans to do more work with Brighter Birthdays and is currently helping one of his younger brothers with his Beta Club service project there. 

“When I started doing this, I did not know that so many kids went without anyone even acknowledging their birthday, let alone getting to celebrate it,” he said. “I also learned that there are lots of kids in low-income situations that do not even know when their birthday is.” 

Grayson’s mom said she is “very proud of him” for the job he did on his project. 

“Since Grayson was very little, anytime I have done service projects, I have always included all of my children and made it an important part of their life choices,” she said. “He is an excellent young man.”  

McKinney also said her son volunteers at The Church at Liberty Square with the children's department and is a member of a visitation team that goes out weekly to welcome visitors and did mission work with other fifth-graders at his church last summer.   

For more information on Brighter Birthdays, visit brighter birthdays.org.