You’re Never Too Young for a Mosquito Net-Friendly Affair

By Emily Lodish
August 13, 2006

Tommy Barnett-Young’s birthday party was shaping up like any other 12-year-old’s in Ithaca in the US state of New York. Fifteen friends gathered at an indoor football field to run around with little supervision, play games and eat cake.

When it came to the topic of giving of gifts, however, Tommy surprised even his parents. Instead of presents, Tommy asked his friends to make donations to The Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.

Tommy’s father, Jack Young, said he hadn’t expected Tommy to ask for donations, but that his son is now at the age “where some of the kids in town have begun to realize how lucky they are not to have to deal with things like malaria, and [they] want to help others.”

Ithaca’s diverse community allows its residents to feel personally connected to events that happen worldwide. Tommy, for instance, knew people who lost family members in the tsunami of December 2004 that struck South and Southeast Asia, killing hundreds of thousands.

At his school, Boynton Middle School in Ithaca, Tommy learned about malaria and the terrible impact it can have on families in places like Cambodia. He also learned about mosquito nets and how effective they can be in curbing the problem.

Compelled to find out more, Tommy turned to the Internet hoping to find charities he might be able to help. That is when he stumbled upon The Cambodia Daily  Mosquito Net Campaign, and a very unique birthday party theme was born.

Prior to the party, many of Tommy’s friends had heard about the effects of malaria in parts of Africa, where 90 percent of the 1 to 2 million malaria-related deaths occur each year. Many of them also knew about Cambodia separately, but most were unaware that malaria was a problem in Cambodia and other parts of Asia.

Once they learned of the situation in Cambodia, they were eager to pitch in.

The part of the Mosquito Net Campaign that the kids liked best was the “Save Three Lives for $5” approach. According to Tommy’s father, “They could see just what their donation would accomplish, and know how many people their donation might help protect from malaria.”

Many of Tommy’s friends will be sending in their own donations, and Tommy’s father expects the total to reach around $250.

Hopefully, Tommy’s friends found that they could have their cake and eat it too, and Tommy’s innovative birthday party will pave the way for future mosquito net-friendly festivities.