Paying it Forward: A birthday gift of giving

WATERFORD – Maggie Huffman decided it would be better to give than receive for her 12th birthday.

Instead of the usual wish list of presents for a pre-teen girl, the Waterford resident asked friends and family to give her bags filled with books, art supplies, toys, card games and other items for children undergoing cancer treatment at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

“My friend Matt Hill, he has cancer, so that gave me the idea to donate bags … in honor of him,” Huffman said.

Hill, a 2013 graduate of Warren High School and family friend, was diagnosed in February with Ewing’s sarcoma, a very rare form of bone cancer. His right foot was amputated in June.

Huffman said she was “shocked and sad” to hear about Hill’s diagnosis.

The idea to use her birthday as an occasion for helping children with cancer came from a TV show Huffman saw that featured a girl who collected shoes for an orphanage for her birthday.

She still had a party with some friends, but instead of opening gifts, she had bags filled with activities for children of various ages delivered or she and her family picked them up. They’ve got a total of 21 bags, with a few more left to get before they make a trip to Columbus to deliver them.

“It felt good to me to give them to someone else,” Huffman said. “I was happy I could do that for other people (rather) than just thinking of myself for my birthday.”

And she didn’t feel like she was missing out on her birthday at all.

“It does feel like your birthday when you have to give to someone else. It makes you feel special,” Huffman said. “It’s not like you’re giving up your birthday; it’s just paying it forward. It’s like you’re making another birthday for someone else.”

Huffman’s mother, Maria, said she was proud of her daughter’s birthday request.

“I was really pleased,” she said. “She really, truly enjoyed doing this. She was excited about it, and she’s actually got her sister Sophie excited about it – she wants to do it for her birthday.”