Fraudsters Exploit Birthdays & Best Intentions

This blog recently covered a sweet story of two girls who see themselves as “birthday twins,” despite racial differences (and the fact that their birthdays are days away from one another). Recently, though, news came out of China of a fraudulent online fundraising campaign capitalizing on the idea of a “birthday twin.”

Chinese social media users were invited to type in their birthdays to find and donate to an impoverished student, born on the same day in a rural province. This sounds like a lovely way to personalize giving….

Until the 0fenbei site was accused of fraud. Screenshots published in Modern Express, a Nanjing-based newspaper, show a photo of the same girl offered up as having two different birthdays. In one result, “A Bi,” is born on Jan. 3, 2009, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. In another, the girl’s name is “Gui Bi,” with a birthday of Nov. 24, 2009.

Another screenshot shows that “Xiao Dan,” another girl from Yunnan, was born on Feb. 29, 2009 — a date that doesn’t exist.

birthday giving

Birthday Giving Done Right

Wang Li, 0fenbei’s founder, issued a statement apologizing for inadequate scrutiny of students’ information, explaining that the publishing process was rushed. “There are six kids whose information is wrong,” he admitted.

The campaign, in which all donations were to have gone to Ai You Future Foundation, a Shenzhen-based charity that collaborates with 0fenbei, is now closed for donations. Yet, the site claims to have already raised more than 2.5 million yuan for 2,130 students.

Shenzhen’s civil affairs bureau is currently investigating the claims of suspicious identities.

Meanwhile, let’s end this blog on a positive note with one more of the now easy to find examples of people using their birthdays to show kindness to others. Just the week of writing this I came across these examples:

Officer Brings Birthday Happiness to Boy

This one is sweet and sad. When an eight-year-old boy didn’t get picked up from school, and staff couldn’t reach an emergency contact, the police were called.

When Officer Darryl Robinson of the Green Bay Police department in Wisconsin arrived to collect the boy he recognized him immediately. He’d had a history with the family and knew the boy’s parent was incarcerated.

Even though no one had arrived to get him, the boy “was in good spirits,” Robinson said. Why not? It was his eighth birthday!

birthday generosity

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPD

Officer Robinson courtesy of GBPDRobinson gave the birthday boy a ride in his patrol car. “He was very excited to ride in one,” he said.

Then, after reaching the grandfather to confirm it was OK, he brought the boy to McDonald’s. And just like that it was a happier birthday: “He loved playing with the toy in his Happy Meal.”

The Response is Sweet Too

People commenting on the story on the Police Department’s Facebook page thanked Robinson for his efforts. One woman offered to drop presents for the boy off at the police station to be delivered. Another commenter wrote:

“I think I just felt my heart break…Thanks to the officer for making that boy’s birthday a little better.”

I second that emotion. The officer did an admirable thing, but it’s sad to think of this boy sitting alone at school on his birthday. The good news is that it only took an hour or so before the boy could be reunited with his grandparent and siblings.

Makes me think of the blog I wrote earlier this year about being there for a kid’s birthday, and another one about agencies doing their part to make sure every child gets to celebrate a birthday. Glad to have a heartwarming tale to share though about birthdays even in the heart of this holiday season.

Life Saving Birthday Generosity


Everyone likes to spend his or her birthday in a special way — even if that is (inexplicably to me) ignoring it entirely.

Obadiah Jenkins of Homer, Alaska decided to celebrate his 33rd birthday this year by attending the Six-Mile Creek Whitewater and Bluegrass Festival in Hope. He hadn’t brought a kayak or even a paddle; he just planned to watch the events.

His friends, though, thought he needed to get out on the water and rounded up the gear he’d need.

It’s fortunate for Daniel Hartung that they did. Jenkins ended up helping to rescuing the more inexperienced kayaker after he flipped into the creek’s frigid waters.

Drop over Waterfall

Hartung, 64, was taking a practice run in Class IV rapids (the most extreme rating for rivers) before the kayakers were in place to help anyone in distress were on the course. He floated downriver and was swept toward a canyon wall and over a drop named Waterfall.

Jenkins, noticing Hartung was pinned under a tree, dropped a rope down to him. But Hartung was unable to get free. “The more I struggled, the more my head went lower. At first, I could keep my head up and breathe, but then it became difficult to catch a breath,” Hartung told the Alaska Dispatch News later.

Jenkins jumped into the water to rescue Hartung after the older man had been stuck in the current for more than five minutes. Even, at one point, with his face forced into the water for 45 seconds.

In jumping in Jenkins knew he was violating “the first principle of rescuing: Don’t endanger yourself to save someone else.” But he moved on autopilot.

“It was my birthday and I just wanted that guy to have another birthday,” he said. “My brain went into automatic mode, and I knew that if I didn’t act immediately, we would be recovering a body.”

Birthday Injuries

Hartung was unconscious when pulled to shore and needed CPR. Jenkins said of the man he rescued: “He was a fighter…To hang on that long in that cold water was pretty impressive. After two rounds of doing chest compressions to him on the riverbank, his wife came down and talked to him. You could tell that hearing her voice helped bring him around. His pulse came back and he began breathing on his own.”

Hartung was taken to hospital and released. Jenkins, too, suffered a sore body from diving into the current, but was still happy the situation ended well.

The New York Post has a video of the rescue you can see too.

Inspired by Birthday Generosity

Birthday generosity makes me happy. So forgive me for sharing yet more examples of people doing good deeds with their birthdays.

In Lynchburg, West Virginia, a pair of siblings asked friends to bring toy donations to their birthday party. Josie, 7, and Jett, 9, then took the gifts to donate to a local non-profit that helps kids going through the court system — many of the under the age of five. These youngsters have been taken from their homes and had to leave their things behind, so this #bdaygenerosity is certainly appreciated.

Homeless pets were the beneficiaries in Richmond, Virginia, when two boys asked for birthday donations to a pet shelter. Hatcher and Sam asked for gifts they could give to animals in need, and also set up a lemonade stand to raise added funds!


Adults get in on the action too. A women’s auxiliary in California hosts an annual Birthday Luncheon to collect gifts for the local Children’s Fund serving neglected, abused and abandoned children San Bernardino County. Now it in its 19th year, the luncheon has donated more than 42,000 gifts to the group. In May 2017 alone the group collected 5,417 birthday gifts to give.

Others are inspired to found organizations dedicated year round to the cause of celebrating birthdays. In Charleston, South Carolina, Steffi Green and her husband founded Birthdays for All to celebrate birthdays for children in foster care.

“I never want a kid to look back on their life and be like ‘I never had a birthday,’ ” Green said.

Megan Yunn is similarly determined. Her non-profit Beverly’s Birthday holds about 120 group birthday parties a year in the greater Pittsburgh area for over 2,000 children and guests. The group distributes over 1,300 presents.


“We all have birthdays, and everyone should know that they are loved, cared for, that they’re noticed and special,” Yunn has said. “Birthdays are joy and hope and smiles. It’s not about lavishness, it’s just about the notion that there are genuinely good people out there and we want to be able to support these families.”

Birthday Goal to Get Behind

Milestone birthdays prompt many different reactions. There are those who plan big parties. Those who try to hide from the date and the attentions of friends. Or others who plan adventurous trips with family to mark a big year.

Recently, a video circulating Facebook was of an “extreme couponer” using her powers of saving on food for good. Lauren Puryear believes that “humans should never have to suffer,” and so she takes her coupon habit seriously enough to serve meals to the homeless in her native New Jersey.

The video shows her buying shelves and shelves of soups and pastas (and apparently storing them in a rented space) before going out onto the streets to provide food to those who need it. She claims to have served 10,000 meals thus far. She states her hope is to serve 30,000 by her 30th birthday!

This woman is not 10, and it is not stated in the video how old she was when she started this campaign. So, it’s safe to say she is setting a high hurdle for herself to reach. She will need to pick up the pace to reach her goal — especially to do so as responsibilities pile up (as they tend to do with each year).

Still, it is impossible to do anything but hope she achieves her goal by her milestone birthday. As she says in the video, “It is our human duty to have some type of love for other people.”

Worst case, if she doesn’t make it by her actual 30th birthday, she can become one of those people who stay 29 for several years in a row — at least until she serves that 30,000th dinner!



Imagine not knowing the birthday song.

Birthday Party

Photo credit: origami_potato via / CC BY-NC-ND

One of my loyal readers sent me this heart-wrenching public service announcement on the heels of a recent post about the birthday song. The ad is 30 seconds of sweet and sadness in which small children identify songs played on a recorder — only they don’t know the Happy Birthday tune.

This PSA is by the Boston-based Birthday Wishes, which helps throw parties for homeless children.

Recently, the founder of a similar organization, Extraordinary Birthdays, was recognizes as a L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth in 2015. Schinell Leake wrote about her organization’s birthday party planning goals for the Huffington Post. I want to share some of her words:

A birthday is one of the most special days in the year of a growing child. He can be the center of attention. She can be the recipient of gifts and much deserved praise.

It’s not just about celebrating a birthday — which every child deserves — it’s about being able to foster their growth, development, and self-esteem despite external circumstances. Feeling valued is every child’s basic right.

Taken together, this video and these words, get to the very heart of my love for birthdays. Birthdays are about making each individual feel special — even if you are taking the opportunity to treat yourself better for that one day.

They are a day to show our loved ones how much we care about and value them, even if we don’t get around to demonstrating it so openly every other day of the year.

I have mentioned organizations such as this before, ones that aim to make birthdays better for others with an outpouring of generosity. I can’t get enough of them. This is service to community that makes me smile (and sort of want to cry that’s it even needed) every single time.

Everyone should know what it is to be celebrated on their birthday, and I only hope this blog helps keep the momentum going.

Related reading:

Donating a Birthday

Birthday Kindness Pass It On