But as Savannah Bain’s 9th birthday approached earlier this month, she had different ideas.
“Me and my mom sat on the couch on a Wednesday afternoon and we were thinking about birthday plans, and we were thinking about children, and how there’s lots of kids now who are poor and don’t have anything,” said Savannah, a bubbly third-grader at Yardville Elementary in Hamilton. “Their lives could get better and they could have a better life if you help them.”
So in lieu of gifts for herself, Savannah asked her friends to bring toys and treats to her birthday party last Friday to donate to kids in need. At the party, they ate pizza and cake, played games – and packed holiday baskets to give away, complete with heartfelt notes they wrote for the kids who will receive the baskets.
A holiday delivery
This morning, Savannah and her parents delivered 11 baskets to Catholic Charities’ Clinton Avenue campus in Trenton to donate to moms, babies and their siblings in For My Baby and Me, an addiction-recovery program for pregnant women and new mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The Bains learned about the life-saving program from Michelle Russo, a nurse who works at both Catholic Charities and Capital Health, where Savannah’s mother, Lindsey, also works. (Capital Health also is one of the six community partners who collaborate to provide the For My Baby and Me program.)
Lindsey and Jonathan Bain attributed their daughter’s charitable instincts to the family’s deep faith. They’re parishioners at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Allentown. Savannah is a member of American Heritage Girls, a Christian scouting group, as well as The Maidens of the Miraculous Medal, a church-based group for girls that encourages community service and prayer.
In the Maidens group, Savannah and her friends have made rosaries for the eighth graders in CCD (religious education classes) and soon will write cards for people in prisons “so that they know they are loved,” Savannah said. Last summer, Savannah and her mother traveled to Gower, Missouri, to visit the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles to help the sisters in the abbey pull weeds, make food, and tend their animals.
“She’s just really been learning a lot of good lessons,” Lindsey said. “I’m so proud of her. Her middle name is Joy, so this totally fits. She is bringing joy to others. We are so blessed that the combination of the traditional Latin Mass, Savannah’s participation in The Maidens of the Miraculous Medal, surrounding herself by such wonderful friends, and the Catholic faith have all helped shape her heart to focus on what’s really important and try to fulfill some of the Corporal Works of Mercy!”
Jonathan agreed, saying: “We try to teach our children that it’s important that we use God’s gifts to help others, whatever our talents are.”
A family mission
The Bains have dedicated their lives to serving others: Jonathan is a firefighter with West Windsor Fire and Emergency Services, and Lindsey is a labor and delivery nurse at Capital Health. They met when Jonathan brought a patient into the old Mercer hospital on Bellevue Avenue when Lindsey was working there. They now have three daughters (Savannah’s younger sisters are Julianna, 6, and Alexandra, 4), with a baby (another girl!) on the way.
When she’s not helping others, Savannah loves spending time with her pet hamster Cinnamon and golden retriever Bailey. She also dances and rides horses.
“Tuesday nights from 8 to 9:15, I have tap and jazz,” she said, ticking off her busy schedule. “I do horseback riding on Wednesdays – Sprinkles and Sweets are the ponies I ride, and an old rodeo horse named Moe. Thursdays is American Heritage Girls. And Friday is finally a day off.”
She’s still young enough that a career seems a long way off. But she’s got ideas for that too: “There are a few things on my mind – maybe I’ll be a teacher, nurse, or help animals.”
A bright future
“I think this is a first for us, that a child so young has done something so amazingly generous,” Kristofor said. “It’s really touching that she would do something so selfless.”
Lisa Merritt, Catholic Charities’ director of nursing, agreed: “The world needs more Savannahs!”
Learn more about the For My Baby and Me program here. See a video on the program below.
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