Jordyn Perez was about to turn 8 years old when her mom suggested a new way to celebrate her birthday. “What would you think about donating your gifts to a children’s hospital?” her mom said.
At first, Jordyn wasn’t sure. Then she gave it some thought. “I was like, ‘Okay, that’s cool,’” Jordyn told TIME for Kids. “I already had everything I needed, and these kids that were going through things at the hospital—they needed it more than I did.”
Now a freshman in high school, Jordyn continues to bring joy to kids and teens being treated for serious illnesses. In December, she made her eighth annual birthday-gift donation to Baptist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.NATALIE GUTIERREZ, BAPTIST HEALTH SYSTEM
“Just to see their little faces when she hands them the gifts, that’s always been our favorite part,” says Jordyn’s mom, Sondra Perez. “Seeing the kids’ reactions just touches our heart.”
Caring for Kids
Kids can be in the hospital for lots of reasons. For instance, asthma, a condition that affects breathing, is a top reason for younger children in the United States. Kids 10 and older are more often hospitalized for mental health issues. Whatever the patient’s age or ailment, a hospital stay can be stressful. Efforts like Jordyn’s are a bright spot during a difficult time.
Jordyn’s first gift drive was in 2016. Since then, it has kicked off each year in early November, a few weeks before her birthday. Along with an invitation to her party, Jordyn’s friends get a list of gift ideas for kids at the hospital. For the littlest patients, gifts might include building blocks or toy trains. “And for the teenagers, my age or older,” Jordyn says, “it might be nail polish or books.”
After the first round of donations, Jordyn shares the list with family, coaches, and teammates. (She plays volleyball and runs track.) The number of donations “grows every year,” she says, but she doesn’t keep an exact count. Instead, she judges by sight. “We measure how much of the carpet it covers in our living room,” Jordyn says. “Last year, it covered the entire carpet.”COURTESY SONDRA PEREZ
Then it’s time to share the gifts with kids at the hospital. “Seeing other people’s happiness—that’s all that matters to me,” Jordyn says.
Do Good, Feel Good
Natalie Gutierrez works in the public relations office at Baptist Children’s Hospital. She has seen firsthand the effect of Jordyn’s gift-giving. “She puts smiles on the faces of these little patients in our hospital and on our nurses and staff,” Gutierrez says. “They are all amazed at her generosity at such a young age.”NATALIE GUTIERREZ, BAPTIST HEALTH SYSTEM
Jordyn’s efforts to help kids in the hospital have inspired others to follow in her footsteps. Friends have collected and donated gifts for their birthdays too. And Jordyn says her 11-year-old twin sisters help animals by donating to the Humane Society.
“Giving to others, it’s just a good feeling to have at the end of the day,” Jordyn says. “I want to keep doing this as long as I can.”
Next month, we’ll feature kids who are speaking up for causes they care about. Could you be one of them? Click here for ideas on how you can promote civic engagement in your community.