Abigael Aycock is 8 years old. Her birthday was February 9. There was a party with friends, family, games, and fun, but one thing was missing: presents.
Abby didn’t want any presents for her birthday–not for herself anyway. She wanted anyone who was going to buy her presents to buy a pair of shoes, to be donated to those in need.
“We have massive birthdays, and I always try to something really cool and memorable for their birthdays,” said Elizabeth Aycock, Abby’s mother.
The idea came last August, from a commercial about a girl in Texas, who gathered 300 pairs of shoes for charity, and Abby told her mother that she wanted a big birthday party with lots of friends, and for presents: shoes.
Abby’s reasoning behind the charity is straightforward and plain, “It’s nice,” she said. “And I’d be growing closer to God.”
Thirty-one pairs of shoes were gathered at the party and then donated to A Child’s Place, which will give them to homeless children in Mecklenburg County.
A Child’s Place helps Mecklenburg’s homeless children get the schooling they need, helping 2,229 children during the 2011-12 school year, but there are thousands more homeless children that are still underserved. CMS identified 4,922 total homeless children for the 2011-12 school year.
“We talked a lot about the things that we struggled for when things got really tough, and Abby’s shoes got really small, and we talked about how the things that we wanted to have and we talked about shoes and blankets and furniture,” said Elizabeth. “But it was shoes.”
Today, Abby and Elizabeth live with Elizabeth’s parents in a five-bedroom home in Mint Hill, but times were not always so good.
After Elizabeth and Josh Aycock, Abby’s father, divorced in 2009, Elizabeth moved in with her parents, began working at a cleaning company, then a construction company, and eventually moved in to a house just down the street.
She worked two and three jobs to stay afloat, writing, cleaning houses, teaching, and even running a paper route for The Charlotte Observer.
Then hard times fell again, and Elizabeth moved back in with her parents, and the process started again: work and find a house. She found a house and moved her stuff in the garage, just to have the owners of the house back out last minute, and Elizabeth started at square one again.
“We just seem to have to drop and load, drop and load so many times that for her to say, ‘You know what, I don’t want any birthday presents;’ wow, that’s really cool,” Elizabeth said.
This is not the first thing that the Aycocks have done to help those in need, either. Elizabeth, Abby, and Mary have worked to raise money for Autism awareness and cancer research and to help a family in need, helping to outfit their son with everything he needed for the first day of school.
More activities events are in the works to help the community in the future, including perhaps selling bracelets and pillows and donating the money, or maybe taking two weeks off during the summer to do community service.
Abby and Elizabeth both have full schedules. Abby is nearly a black belt in karate, and has taken dance classes since she was a year old. Elizabeth works cleaning houses and goes to school in the evenings.
“I typically work from 7:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, and then I go to school until 8-8:30, and then I work on Saturdays, too.” Elizabeth said.
Both Abby and Elizabeth are students; Abby at Saint Gabriel’s Catholic School, Elizabeth at Central Piedmont Community College, finishing up her associates degree, ready to graduate and transfer to the University of North Carolina Charlotte.
As far as future birthdays, Abby plans similar presents-for-others parties, “Because it feels good to just give things away, and it’s better to give than receive,” Abby said.
Abby’s next birthday is just under a year away, and plans are already in the works—this one for animals, maybe. No specifics yet for the party, but one thing is for sure, Abby doesn’t want any presents for herself.
“It feels unbelievable to know that she cares so much about other people,” Elizabeth said. “And it feels better for her to give than receive and to find that in an 8-year-old kid, just doesn’t happen.”