A reader's daughter made a big impression on the neighborhood when she decided to head a service project for her party. By Janet Bodnar, Editor-at-Large April 12, 2006 I recently read your column about parents who go overboard on children's birthday parties. I'd like to share what my daughter, Jennifer, did to celebrate her 11th birthday with her friends. Several months before her birthday, Jenny said she wanted to do a service project for her party: to go to a homeless shelter and read aloud to children. Instead of buying a costly gift, we got fleece to make blankets. Jenny spent weeks on the blankets, and the whole family got involved. Instead of bringing a gift, Jenny asked each of her friends to bring two children's books. We made arrangements to visit our local YWCA and read to a group of preschool children. Each of the children was given a blanket and picked a book to keep. The remaining books were left for all to enjoy. This was an amazing experience for the children at the YWCA and the 12 fifth-graders who spent time with them. We picked up $5 pizzas on the way home, and Jenny and her friends watched a show we had taped from the Disney Channel. We had homemade cupcakes and popcorn. While the girls were eating, they shared their experiences with their YWCA "buddies." Advertisement Several of Jenny's friends expressed interest in having a similar party. One mother commented, "Jenny has started a new trend." Including the additional books I purchased and the materials for the blankets, I spent slightly over $100 for this party. But the memories will last much longer than a trip to the zoo. Side note: Jenny has started volunteering every other Friday at the YWCA. She invites three or four friends each week. Thanks for your article and advice on children's finances. Advertisement Birthdays should be celebrated I disagree with you. I am from India and we celebrate a first birthday with a huge party to which all our family members and friends are invited. Goodie bags, which cost about $2 or $3 each, are handed out. I think birthday parties are social events that should be celebrated and remembered for years to come by taking photos of your kids and others. I think you should start thinking of other cultures when writing your articles, because they are read all over. I still like you and will read your articles. No hard feelings, please. None taken. Thanks to both readers for sharing their perspectives. Take it a step further Regarding your column on birthdays: Now apply the same idea to weddings!