PARK HILLS – When Adeline Grace Layton heard people at her church talk about collecting canned goods for a local food bank, she knew exactly how she wanted to celebrate her upcoming ninth birthday.
The youngster went home and explained to her mother that after hearing what Desloge First Baptist Church was planning to do to help the hungry, she wanted to do even more.
“Instead of presents, I told my mom that I wanted my friends to bring canned goods to my birthday party,” she said, flashing a big smile.
And how did her mother Shelley react to Adeline’s idea?
“I was surprised,” she said. “But I was also proud that someone Adeline’s age had come up with such a wonderful idea.”
While Adeline’s desire to ask for canned goods instead of birthday presents was somewhat unexpected, Shelley said her daughter’s dogged determination to follow through on her plan was not.
“She’s adamant all the time,” Shelley said. “She gets an idea in her head and she sticks to it.”
Adeline’s selfless idea to help others in need may be due largely to the way in which the community reached out to her family when tragedy struck five years ago. Adeline’s father, Nick, was 28 years old when he was killed in a car crash on March 28, 2008. He left behind Shelley, Adeline and the couple’s youngest daughter, Amy Elizabeth, who is now 6 years old.
When Adeline’s birthday finally arrived, 31 children attended her party and they brought lots of canned goods. The youngster even received gifts from several of her teachers at North County Elementary School. Shelley said her co-workers at Serenity Hospice Center even contributed to her daughter’s cause.
“I was amazed at how many canned goods were collected,” Shelley said. “There was a really big pile.”
Adeline’s idea had an unexpected but not unwanted impact on the youngsters who attended the party.
“Once I did it, a lot of my friends wanted to do it, too,” she said.
A few days after the cans were collected at the party, Adeline and her mother headed over to the Elvins Food Pantry in Park Hills to turn in the donations.
“The people at the pantry told me I had more canned goods than my church did,” said an excited Adeline.
Shelley said the “birthday gifts” given her daughter filled two of the food pantry’s shopping carts — top and bottom.
“Two ladies at the pantry said they wanted to take my picture with the food,” said Adeline. “Once I’d delivered the cans, I couldn’t get the smile off my face!”
And now that Adeline has experienced the joy of giving instead of receiving, she said there’s more to come.
“For my next birthday I’m wanting to collect toys, crayons and paper for orphans through Operation Christmas,” she said with obvious delight.
That will most certainly be a 10th birthday party to remember.
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at (573) 431-2010, ext. 114 or email@example.com