When her annual birthday bonfire went up in smoke because of COVID-19 restrictions, a River Heights woman decided to use the occasion to instead send a gift to Winnipeg’s front-line workers.

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Opinion

When her annual birthday bonfire went up in smoke because of COVID-19 restrictions, a River Heights woman decided to use the occasion to instead send a gift to Winnipeg’s front-line workers.

CARING AMID COVID-19 CRISIS

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"My birthday’s in spring, so I usually have a big bonfire and feast with my friends in the backyard, but we couldn’t do that this year because of the coronavirus," Luanne (Lulu) Hall said Monday.

"I just thought: I’m not going to have any birthday presents and nobody’s going to see me, so why not let someone else have a little party?" Hall said. "Let’s raise money for front-line workers instead."

She hit on the online fundraising idea of "The 12 Days of Lulu’s Birthday," inspired by the iconic Christmas carol in which a series of increasingly grand (and often bird-related) gifts are given over a dozen festive days.

""I just thought: I'm not going to have any birthday presents and nobody's going to see me, so why not let someone else have a little party?"‐ Luanne Hall

In Hall’s case, 12 days before her 52nd birthday on April 22, she posted her offbeat challenge, inviting friends and family to send her "gifts of love" in the form of cash that would in turn be donated to firefighters, paramedics or health-care workers.

"Every day for 12 days, I posted it on Facebook, asking whoever wanted to give me money instead of a birthday present and we’d donate it... give back to our community," she said.

"What I said was they could give from $2 to $52, because I was turning 52. I started off donating the first $52; then my cousin sent me $52. It just took off from there."

At the end of 12 days, instead of drummers drumming and partridges in pear trees, 32 of Hall’s family and friends had helped her raise $791.66 ("I’m topping it off to make it an even $800").

The Waterloo Street resident — a call centre worker who is taking time off to care for her eight-year-old granddaughter, whose daycare was closed by the pandemic — was delighted and surprised at how much was raised.

"I thought we might raise $200. I’m very happy. I was shocked we could do that. I’m grateful to everyone who participated. Even my eight-year-old granddaughter gave $20 of her birthday money," Hall said.

"I certainly miss my friends and the outdoor party, but this felt even better."

The mother of two adult children said the $800 birthday jackpot will be donated to Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Station No. 16 on McGregor Street.

"The reason I chose firefighters is because my daughter and her husband were victims of arson a few years back," Hall said. "They lost everything in their house... Somebody torched the garage and it started the house on fire.

"Neighbours got my two grandchildren out and firefighters got my daughter and her husband out of the house. I never got a chance to thank the fire department back then, so that’s why I chose them," she said.

"Also, my cousin is a firefighter at Station 16. I just thought they could use that money to purchase something they need, or even just buy coffee for their brother and sister firefighters."

Inspired by the success of her fundraiser, Hall said she wants to challenge any Winnipegger with a birthday coming up to hold a similar online event to support front-line workers during the pandemic.

Challenge your friends and family to donate to the cause of your choice, and give back for all they do for our community."

Just don't accept any turtle doves, swans a swimming, or French hens, because they can make a real mess.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
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