August 17th, 2016 | Giving, News

For the past three years, 8-year-old Lesa and 5-year-old Dia Carlson from New Brighton have donated all but three of their birthday gifts to children facing homelessness and poverty. It all started when Lesa was in preschool. As she made more friends and her birthday parties grew bigger, her parents felt that all the gifts from her friends, alongside gifts from family, were a lot for one child, and encouraged Lesa to share the gifts with other children in need.

After experimenting with donating to different children’s causes, the Carlsons found Cheerful Givers. Now, after the girls’ birthdays, Lesa and Dia choose three gifts they receive to keep, and donate the rest to Cheerful Givers, which distributes the gifts to food pantries and shelters through the Twin Cities area.

Lesa and Dia Carlson donate to Cheerful Givers

Lesa and Dia Carlson

Lesa and Dia love being able to share their gifts with other kids. They keep the kids they’re donating to in mind when they’re picking out which if their gifts to keep, says Lariza, the girls’ mother. “In past years, they received art supplies along with gifts that might be more attractive to girls. Lesa and Dia will purposefully not pick the art gifts so that there are some ‘boy-friendly’ gifts in their stash to give to Cheerful Givers,” she says.

Thank you for being Outstanding Cheerful Givers, Lesa and Dia!

Are you interested in donating to Cheerful Givers? Please visit our Get Involved page!


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July 10th, 2016 | Birthdays, Minnesota Twins, News

The wives of Minnesota Twins players held a Birthday Bag Blitz assembly party to prepare gifts for children facing homelessness and poverty in the Twin Cities area.

The Twins players and their wives assembled an impressive 400 colorful birthday bags—100 more than they did at last year’s event! The group then distributed 200 bags to Neighborhood House in St. Paul, 150 to Anna Marie’s Alliance in St. Cloud, and 50 to Mary’s Place in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Twins Cheerful Givers

Thanks to the players and their wives, parents who may not otherwise be able to give their children birthday gifts this year will be able to provide them memorable, special presents. We’re so grateful to the Twins and their wives for contributing to our cause!
Want to host your own bag assembly event? Check out our Get Involved page for more info!

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July 7th, 2016 | Book, Donations, Giving, News, Partners

We’re proud to announce a new partnership with Scholastic, which publishes children’s books and other educational materials. Thanks to Scholastic, Cheerful Givers is able to acquire books at a major discount. That means our gift bags now include high-quality, entertaining and educational books for children of all ages.

“We’re very fortunate to be able to include these books in our bags for children,” said Robin Zelaya, the founder and board chair of Cheerful Givers. “In addition to being educational, these books provide a bonding activity for parents and their children to enjoy together. In some cases, these books will be the first our little recipients will ever own, and we’re so happy to be able to provide that gift to them.”

Cheerful Givers book bag

A Cheerful Givers gift bag we put together with a book from Scholastic.

Later this year, Cheerful Givers will launch a corporate birthday bag program, which will allow corporations to choose which books they’d like included in the bags they help assemble. Stay tuned for more details!

For more information about forming a business partnership with Cheerful Givers, please visit our Give page.

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June 20th, 2016 | Volunteers

The Cheerful Givers Volunteer Blog is our way of letting volunteers share their experiences and express what it means to be a ‘Cheerful Giver’. If you are interested in writing an article for Cheerful Givers email us at


By Nabanita Biswas

Books can be an individual’s best friend. All books carry an important message for their readers. Reading books and discovering these messages help us gain knowledge. Reading is an important habit for everyone to cultivate, but it plays a particularly important role in children’s development.

Education begins long before kids head out for their first day of school. Babies begin gathering learning from day one, and the knowledge they develop at this early stage serves as the basic building blocks for all the learning they do at later stages in their lives.

Education often correlates with high literacy rates; the higher a country’s education rate, the greater its literacy rate as well. Put simply, if we can provide every child in the U.S. the proper education, we can improve our literacy rate.

Parents often want their children to be brilliant and intelligent. This can be achieved only through education, which begins with books at a very early age. Research shows children who read from an early age become more versed with formal school systems. They develop better communication and logical skills, which, in turn, help them concentrate and focus better.

Unfortunately, poverty creeps into the picture and gets in the way of increasing the literacy rates. If we take the initiative of giving free books to children living in poverty, we can contribute to their education and help them acquire basic knowledge and skills. In this way, we can foster the seeds of literacy in them.

In addition, contributing to children’s education through literacy can help improve their self-esteem and their confidence, as well as decrease their chances of getting involved in social violence, crimes and felonies. Ultimately, these steps can lead children to more easily find employment opportunities and lead better lives overall. So by adding to children’s education with books, we can not only increase literacy rates, but also help fight poverty.

Members of the Cheerful Givers community want to help children in need not only celebrate their birthdays, but access educational tools they may not otherwise receive. We put books in 95 percent of our birthday gift bags because we want kids, no matter their background, to have opportunities to learn, develop and grow, ultimately enriching their lives in the long term.

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May 30th, 2016 | Birthdays, Giving, Kids

For Mallory Held’s eighth birthday, instead of receiving gifts from her friends, she wanted to find a way to help kids in need, who don’t get the chance to celebrate their birthdays with gifts every year.

“I wanted them to be happy and have a fun birthday too,” she said.

So Mallory and her mom Jamie did some research online, and discovered Cheerful Givers, which through the generous help of volunteers and donors, assembles birthday bags for children facing homelessness and poverty. Mallory decided to ask her friends to bring either items to place in bags, or donations to purchase these items.

Mallory and Jamie then donated the items to Cheerful Givers, which was able to assemble 12 birthday bags with the great gifts. We then dropped the bags off at a local food pantry, where parents can pick them up and give them to their kids on their birthdays.

Mallory, who also helps raise money for a school in Guatemala and participates in food drives, has told her Girl Scout troop leader about the Cheerful Givers experience, and hopes to assemble more bags with her troop soon.

Thank you, Mallory!

Are you interested in hosting a bag assembly party or donating to Cheerful Givers? Please visit our Get Involved page!

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May 28th, 2016 | Birthdays, Children, Kids

When Clara Willingham and her mother, Stephanie, started planning Clara’s ninth birthday party, they looked for something special guests could bring instead of presents. They sought out different causes they could donate to, and came upon Cheerful Givers, which donates birthday gifts to children facing homelessness and poverty.

Along with a birthday party invitation, Clara’s mother Stephanie sent out a link to the Cheerful Givers Birthday Bag Instructions page, which provides helpful suggestions for birthday bag items. Clara and her friends assembled 15 bags! She and her mom then dropped the bags off at the Sabathani Community Center Food Shelf in Minneapolis, where children’s parents can pick up the gifts and give them to their kids on their birthdays.

Clara Willingham

Clara, thank you for your generosity! Your caring gesture will give 15 kids a very special birthday.

Are you interested in hosting a bag assembly party or donating to Cheerful Givers? Please visit our Get Involved page!

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May 26th, 2016 | Children, Donations, Giving, Kids, Schools

In April, a very special group of small volunteers from Happee Hollee’s Preschool & Childcare in St. Michael, Minnesota, helped give 17 children memorable birthdays.

Happee Hollee's Preschool & Childcare Donates to Cheerful Givers

The preschoolers at Hollee’s assembled birthday bags for children facing homelessness and poverty, and donated them to the Hanover Food Shelf. The bags, which included books, games and toys, will be distributed to the children’s parents at the shelter.

Thanks to the preschoolers who assembled the bags, the children will be able to celebrate their birthdays with a true birthday gift.

Thank you Happy Hollee’s Preschool!

If you’re interested in donating to our assembling gift bags for Cheerful Givers, please email Robin Steele at

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May 22nd, 2016 | Donations, Funding, Giving

Every year, Minneapolis radio station Cities 97 releases a benefit compilation album to raise money for local nonprofit organizations. This year, the station sold more than 30,000 copies of the Cities 97 Sampler album, and will donate $10,000 of the proceeds to Cheerful Givers.

Cities 97 Sampler

We’re so grateful to both Cities 97 and all of those who purchased an album for helping our cause! Thanks to this incredible donation, we’ll be able to provide memorable birthday gifts to children facing homelessness and poverty.

Thank you, Cities 97!

Visit the Cities 97 website to learn more about Cities 97 Sampler Volume 27.

For more information about donating to Cheerful Givers, please visit our Give page.

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May 18th, 2016 | Family, Kids, Volunteers

Volunteering is a great way to teach children about helping others in need and giving back to their communities. But with school, extracurriculars and all the other commitments families have on their plates, it can be hard to fit volunteering into already packed schedules. On top of that, it can be hard to find activities that everyone enjoys. That’s why Cheerful Givers makes it easy for kids and their families to donate their time to other children in fun, memorable ways.

Here are just a few family-friendly volunteering opportunities Cheerful Givers offers:

Become a Pencil or Crayon Collector: Lead a pencil or crayon drive at your school or local organization. By collecting new pencils or crayons for Cheerful Givers’ bags, you’ll help provide birthday gifts to children facing homeless and poverty.

Host a Bag Assembly Party: Whether you’re looking for a unique birthday party theme or a team-building activity, hosting a bag assembly party can be fun and impactful. Research and collect gift bag items, and then assemble the bags to create unique, memorable birthday gifts for children in need.

Research Toys for Kids: What kid doesn’t love learning about new toys? We need help from the experts to determine what fun, interesting and unique new toys to include in our birthday bags. By sending us suggestions for gift bag items, you’ll help us provide special birthday presents to children who otherwise wouldn’t get them.

Check out more unique ways you can volunteer with Cheerful Givers on

Have a great idea for a family-friendly volunteering opportunity? Email Robin Steele at

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May 11th, 2016 | Team Building, Volunteers

Are you looking for unique, easy ways to give back? Cheerful Givers offers a variety of virtual volunteer opportunities that can help you make a difference in the lives of children.

We know it can be hard to make time to volunteer, especially if you have a busy schedule. That’s why we’re giving you the chance to donate your time and skills in a way that’s convenient for you. Whether you’re looking to dedicate a small amount of time each week, or spend an afternoon assembling bags, we can make volunteering easy and fun.

In addition to being convenient, our volunteer opportunities can help you use skills you’ve already mastered, as well as develop new ones, such as communication, organization, leadership and more.

Here’s just a few ways you can volunteer virtually for Cheerful Givers:

Grant Researcher: Help Cheerful Givers identify foundations, organizations and corporations that may support our cause. You’d also help complete grant applications, allowing our organization to access the funding it needs to provide birthday gifts to less fortunate children.
Great for: Communication, Research

Social Networking Promoter: Love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Use your social media skills to spread awareness of the challenges children living in poverty face, and the impact organizations like Cheerful Givers can make.
Great for: Social Media, Communication

Host a Bag Assembly Activity: Whether you’re a manager seeking an effective team-building activity, a student searching for community service opportunities or a parent looking for birthday party ideas for your child, hosting a bag assembly activity can make for a fun, meaningful afternoon.
Great for: Leadership, Organization

Check out more ways you can volunteer with Cheerful Givers on

Have a great idea for a virtual volunteering opportunity? Email Robin Steele at

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