This Texan woman shows us that everyone needs a chance to celebrate their special moments, especially these 130 children.
Turning the big 3-0 can be daunting, yet exhilarating. After all, it's a milestone that requires a lot of planning to celebrate it the right way. And for Amanda Rico, she did in the most selfless way possible -- by throwing a birthday bash for 130 neglected and abused children. Thankfully, KSat News was able to share this beautiful story with the world.
In the start, this soon-to-be 30-year-old woman from Texas had made a Pinterest board naming all the things she wanted on her birthday. From her birthday cake to being serenaded by singing mariachis, she was all set. Well, that is until one book made her change the way she wanted to celebrate this memorable moment.
After reading Light Up the Darkness to her children one night, Rico decided to scrap her original birthday idea. Rico summarizes the book and says, “It is about a young boy who is blind, and the setting is the Nativity scene. He hears about Mary and Joseph getting denied a place to stay, and he relates, saying he understands how it feels to be denied. At the end, he gets his sight back from Jesus.”
Instead of organizing her own birthday bash, she chose to set one up for those children who never knew what it was like to celebrate their birthday. As for what was the deciding factor for her, she mentioned that it was actually the first page of the book that moved her to tears. Rico explained, "It says, ‘I was just a boy one winter’s night beneath my favorite tree. It was the night of my 12th birthday all alone as I can be. No cards, no cake, no candles, no presents wrapped for me, because no one threw a party for a little boy who couldn’t see.'”
It was then that nothing would make her change her mind about this. “I stopped and said, ‘Wow! Am I being selfish that I have been blessed with 30 wonderful years of life? And how many other children out there that do not have the opportunity to have a wonderful birthday or experience these great things?’” Rico said.
Informing her husband that she wanted to organize a party for others, she had originally thought of something simple like just cake. "I was thinking maybe something simple, like just a cake, but it blew up," Rico said. "It means a lot because I think we get so caught up in our daily lives. It is just very natural for us to be humanly selfish, but sometimes, just taking a step back and thinking of other people’s circumstances is humbling."
But this process was not without its hurdles and she mentions that initially, it was discouraging. "The process was pretty interesting," Rico states. "I was fighting it, but I thought 'Alright, God, if you are telling me to do this, then I am going to do this.' I started by picking the phone up and calling people. I got a lot of no's at first. People were saying they didn’t do volunteer work or they couldn’t help because they were booked that day."
Even through social media, she felt that there was no real help. “A week before all of this, I had posted about a dog that I picked up and I was trying to find a home for, and, man, it went viral,” Rico explained. “It got, like, 3,000 views, but when it comes to a human, I wasn’t getting the same traction. My husband had to tell me that, unfortunately, that is how society is sometimes. A lot of children are put to the side, which is just devastating to me.”
But all was not lost as Rico did end up getting her birthday wish. "I gave it one more shot and called Bryan Boyd, who did my wedding reception, and he was, like, 'OK.' I was, like, ‘OK, what?’ He was, like, "OK, I’ll help you make this viral.'" He helped her put together everything including the catering, a photo booth, a videographer, a live DJ, a balloon artist and everything else that was required.
As for the location for this exciting moment, Rico decided to find a place that she wanted to help and chose St. PJ's Children's Home, feeling it was perfect. “I chose this place because my parents loved the missions, and we would always go sightseeing, and this place was on the way to the missions," she said. "I knew it was an orphanage before, and now it is a children’s home, but that is all I knew about it. Then, I did more research and found that this was the largest facility in San Antonio. What better way to go big or go home, right?”
Along with several volunteers and the home secured, February 1st, Friday was a rush as Rico spent the entire after planning this surprise event. With no idea what was in store for them, Rico says that the children thought they were just going to be having a normal dinner, a bath and then retire to their dorms. But quite obviously, they got more than what they expected.
“It disheartens me that this is still a reality today -- children being without a loving family,” Rico said. "This place does a good job by providing them with the best pathway possible, but it is upsetting because I have children on my own, and I think, 'What if they didn’t have (parents) or if they felt denied?'”
In order to help the children's home, she even started a GoFundMe page, raising $1,100 so that they could provide clothes, shoes, hygiene products and other items for the children.
Hoping that this event acts as an inspiration for communities to be there in times of need, she says, “We are here for just more than ourselves, and I want them to understand what that big global picture is,” Rico said. “Take a step back and look beyond yourself and really just have an open heart through it all.”
She also wants her children to know that they too can make a difference. She states, "I want them to be humanitarian and humble and to live that legacy. Have an open heart for others."
Her husband, Jonathan Rico, also took to Facebook to share how proud he was of his wife for this gesture that gave the children a chance to feel special.
However, in all of this, she did not forget to thank the volunteers who so willingly came to help her out, especially her friend Bryan Boyd.