Like all kids, Mason Isaac loves presents, but the kind of gifts that get him jumping up and down aren’t little plastic toys or electronic gadgets.
Mason gets excited by envelopes with donations to save the polar bears or build a school in Afghanistan.
“I have plenty of toys,” he says. So since his second birthday, Mason, with the help of his parents—Brandy and Mike—has had parties dedicated to improving things he cares about: panda bears, whales and children in Africa.
His “Make a Difference” birthday parties have raised thousands of dollars for these charities, including last year’s $1,351 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
“When we first moved to Glenview, I was a little nervous,” Brandy admits. It was just before Mason’s fifth birthday (dedicated to raising money for Pennies 4 Peace) and they weren’t sure what their new neighbors would think of the invitation, but Brandy and Mike went ahead and invited 60 neighbors and friends to a cookout in the yard of their beautiful new home. Mason asked for donations in lieu of presents, and the family found that their new neighbors were supportive and excited to help Mason with his birthday project.
“My favorite birthday was probably saving the Pandas,” says Mason when asked to pick the party he liked most. And for a six-year old, Mason knows an incredible amount about the pandas and why they need to be saved.
“He worries and cares about what he sees in the world,” says his mother. And while they are strict about what their children watch on television, they discuss current events and issues that matter to them. “We tell them the truth because they have an avenue to make a difference.”
And that includes younger sister, Lauren and toddler Taylor, who are following in their older brother’s footsteps with parties to save the gorillas and send books to children in New Orleans.
“I want my children to be happy and fulfilled, and to understand that it’s not about what you have, it’s what you give,” says Brandy. “If we can learn that when we’re 5, then you’re not struggling to find fulfillment in things when you’re 40.” She’d love to see her family’s idea spread to other families and communities, and she’s toyed with the idea of setting up a business, but when she describes the amount of time she puts into each party, it’s clear her drive is an act of love, not of business.
And what’s next for Mason? Saving the polar bears this summer when he turns 7.