5 year old requests Toonies instead of birthday gifts

We were thrilled to learn this concept inspired a 5 year old, Gabriel, and his mom as they planned for his birthday. Here’s their story.

Late last year, we shared a post on helping your kids embrace the spirit of giving. It included ideas for fundraising.

We were thrilled to learn this concept inspired a 5 year old, Gabriel, and his mom as they planned for his birthday. Here’s their story.

“The idea of donating to charity started when my youngest son turned three. I was dreading the upcoming birthday party, not because of the work it involved, or the expenses it required. On the contrary, I enjoy planning parties, I usually get plenty of help, and the financials are, luckily, not a problem for us. I was mostly worried about the deluge of toys and gifts that, from previous experience, our generous guests will shower us with. We ran out of room and too much is too much!

So in planning the party, “we [decided to ask] for donations instead of gifts. Guests were asked to bring two Toonies, one for charity and one for the birthday boy. This time we decided to donate to ‘Toonies for Tummies’. It broke my heart to know that, up until now, in this advanced country, there are children who go hungry to school! The Grocery Foundation came up with this brilliant idea to provide breakfast to hungry children for only a toonie donation. In return, donors could get a booklet that includes savings coupons. It was such a neat idea, I set my mind to plan a toonies party and help out. Everyone we sent the invitation to agreed it was a wonderful plan.

The main obstacle remained. Gabriel was old enough to realize that he will surely get gifts on his birthday. He’s been to his friends’ birthday parties and he remembers very well the gifts unwrapping part. It was a bit harder to explain to him why his friends will show up ‘empty-handed’ for his party.

For a while I was worried about having to deal with disappointment when I worked so hard to plan his perfect birthday bash. I even invited Spiderman, his favorite superhero! To my delight, goodness triumphed. Kids are more accepting than we think. They learn and believe what we want them to learn and believe. In this case, that they are loved and favored without an extravagant show of materialistic possessions.

The party was a success. Everyone had fun and the parents appreciated the booklets we included in their kids’ loot bags. Also, Gabriel wildly enjoyed himself and seemed totally oblivious to the lack of presents, until I brought it up and showed him what his generous little friends brought. Some guests even donated more than a couple of Toonies. The total gathered amount was a little less than a hundred dollars, and much more than we expected.

What truly warmed our hearts was Gabriel’s reaction when he saw the bucket full of toonies. His face was more lit-up than when he was surprised with a fancy two-seater tractor his grand-parents insisted on getting him.

“Is this all mine?!” he screamed.

“Half of it is yours. The other half is for children who do not have money at all.”

We are so very touched by this story and cannot thank Gabriel, his mom and party guests for their kindness. As adults we can give, we can also help our children learn the importance of giving and helping those who perhaps may not ask for help, but nonetheless need it.

#TooniesforTummies is so much more than a campaign in-store. It represents a belief that all children have potential and deserve the opportunity to pursue their dreams, just like Gabriel and his friends.

Help Us Make Breakfast a Reality for a Hungry Child

Chasing dreams should be part of every child’s day. Going without breakfast shouldn’t be.


We are so grateful to Canadians who support Toonies for Tummies during our annual store campaign and, year-round, online.

You may know on April 16th, the Federal Government confirmed plans to support student nutrition programs. Specifically, the budget has announced the creation of a National School Food Program, which will provide $1 billion over five years to Employment and Social Development Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada, starting in 2024‑25.

You may wonder what does this government funding mean specific to the need and our efforts to fundraise?

Without a doubt, we continue to need your support. While many student nutrition program leaders are encouraged by the incremental government support, many have taken to the news and social media to confirm even with this support, funding gaps will persist.

The Grocery Foundation's Vision, that no Canadian child goes to school hungry, remains fully intact. Our work continues and remains vital to support hungry children through their school’s student nutrition program. There is no change whatsoever in our focus, our mission, or our reliance on your support.

The programs we help fund are universal in nature. That means all children who require a healthy meal have access. Those on the front lines of these programs affirm their positive impact and positive halo beyond the day’s nutrition, from attendance, behaviours to the school community and mental health. The programs you help fund also support foundational nutrition knowledge and social skill building, as many programs include mechanisms for student involvement in menu planning, food preparation and serving of food to peers.

Thank you for choosing to support hungry children in your community, nourishing their health, well-being, academic success while fostering their school community. With your continued support, we will continue to help dreams take flight and nourish over 3,000 programs and neighbourhoods, yours among them.