But something appeared to be missing — there wasn’t a present in sight.
While most 7-year-old boys can’t wait to unwrap presents from family members and friends on their birthdays, Jack had something different in mind for his party. Rather than receive the latest gadgets or coolest toys, he wished for his guests to give to the Chamberlain Community Thanksgiving Fund, instead.
This year, Chamberlain is playing host to a free-of-charge Thanksgiving meal for its area residents at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at the downtown Community Center. It’ll include everything from turkey and ham to stuffing, potatoes, green beans and pie for people who do not have anyone close by to spend the holiday with, do not have the means to afford a fancy meal or would just rather spend the day fellowshipping with their neighbors than staying at home.
And it appears this pint-sized philanthropist will have a chunk of change to donate to the cause, as a stack of envelopes, undoubtedly filled with cash or checks, sat waiting to be opened Friday.
“Jack and our whole family think the Community Thanksgiving is an awesome concept and that it would be the perfect thing to give toward,” said Jack’s mother, Angi Hanzlik. “There are a lot of people who don’t ask for help in our community and this is a way to help them without them actually having to ask for it.”
Angi’s oldest son William, 9, did something similar for his fifth and sixth birthdays by asking his party guests to give to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. As Jack’s birthday got closer this year, Angi brought up the idea that he could do something similar for his birthday if he wanted to. It sparked what is now a bit of a tradition for the Hanzlik boys.
“Once I explained the idea, Jack was very excited about it,” said Angi. “He thought it would be the coolest thing to help feed the community on Thanksgiving.”
A few of the other parents reached out to Angi after reading the instructions on the party invitation, and thanked her for the opportunity to talk to their own children about the importance of giving.
“Material things are just not as important as they might seem in the moment,” Angi said. “Our family (which also includes husband, Jarrod, and youngest son, Andrew, age 5) is fortunate to have the things we need, so birthdays can be more about giving than receiving.”
Deacon Jim Bregel, of Chamberlain, is helping organize the Community Thanksgiving event with approximately 10 other volunteers. He said Jack’s gift is not only a blessing for the event, but it gives him hope for the future — that it will be filled with young people who will grow up to become caring and giving adults.
“For a young person to want to donate what little he has and give it to the community, that’s just something really special,” Bregel said. “Things like this always surprise me to a certain extent, but generosity catches on. He had his older brother as a leader, and it just proves that you can be a person who leads by example, and others will also step up to the plate and follow.”
And, although at seven years old, Jack might not fully grasp exactly how much his gift matters, for now he says giving makes him feel “really good.”
It was the perfect feeling to have on his birthday.
For more information about the Chamberlain Community Thanksgiving event, go to facebook.com/ChamberlainThanksgiving.