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Happy Birthday to Me and YOU!

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Philip J Brittan | Photodisc | Getty Images

Parties, presents, cake—these are the things that come to mind when most people think about birthdays. You don’t typically think of famine, disease, or oppression. But I would argue that it’s when we’re at our luckiest—one year older, one year wiser—that we should be thinking of those who aren’t so lucky.

Which is why I prefer to give on my birthday.

It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate gifts and sweets—I do—but nothing makes me happier than thinking that on my special day I made someone else’s day better. Last year, I raised enough money through Operation Smilefor children to undergo cleft-palette surgery. Donations from friends and colleagues helped me to turn what was one calendar-day in my life into a lifetime of betterment for someone else.

This year, I’m campaigning for GirlUp, part of the United Nations Foundation that raises awareness and funds for programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. Visit my page to see for yourself.

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Okay, I get it, this all sounds a little holier-than-thou. But today is my birthday, and I’ll save the world if I want to! Seriously, though, I’m not alone. Every year, thousands of people use their birthdays as a platform for giving. Take charity : water, for example, an organization that provides clean drinking water to developing nations. The foundation got its start from a birthday party—founder Scott Harrison’s 31st birthday. He raised $15,000 for a refugee camp in Uganda, and a successful charity was born.

Now, that was a big-ticket donation, sure—but that’s not what it’s all about, either. A recent report by ABC News says that the trend for children to use their birthday parties to give back is on the rise, particularly in wealthier areas, like the valley in southern California. Instead of focusing on the high-pressures and high-costs of throwing a birthday bash with lavish presents, kids are asking their friends to bring toys, clothes, or cash to give back to those in need.

So long, “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” All the cool kids are giving.

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