“My husband had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday,” Rico said.
She immediately started thinking of plans to make her 30th birthday one she’d never forget.
“I started to think about all the extravagant things I wanted to do — my birthday cake. I wanted to have mariachis, and I wanted them to serenade me.”
Then she read something that brought her to tears and it changed all her plans.
She picked up a book to read to her children one night called Light Up the Darkness.
“It is about a young boy who is blind, and the setting is the Nativity scene,” Rico said. “He hears about Mary and Joseph getting denied a place to stay, and he relates, saying he understands how it feels to be denied. At the end, he gets his sight back from Jesus.”
“It says, ‘I was just a boy one winter’s night beneath my favorite tree. It was the night of my 12th birthday all alone as I can be. No cards, no cake, no candles, no presents wrapped for me, because no one threw a party for a little boy who couldn’t see.’”
After spending so much time planning how to make herself the center of attention at her big 30th birthday bash, it broke her heart to read the story of a little boy with no party at all.
“I stopped and said, ‘Wow, am I being selfish that I have been blessed with 30 wonderful years of life. And how many other children out there that do not have the opportunity to have a wonderful birthday or experience these great things?’”
It impacted her to the core and even brought her to tears.
That’s when everything changed.
She decided she wanted to plan the party as a celebration for others, not for herself, but she didn’t know where to start.
So she made a confession video on Facebook live and posted it for all to see, and at the end she announced her plans to put on a birthday celebration for “130 kids who have not all been given the privilege of celebrating a birthday.”
The kids were residents at the St. PJ’s Children’s Home, a shelter for victims of abuse and neglect.
Sadly, the initial reaction was underwhelming and she became a bit discouraged.
“The process was pretty interesting,” Rico said. “I was fighting it, but I thought ‘Alright, God, if you are telling me to do this, then I am going to do this. I started by picking the phone up and calling people. I got a lot of no’s at first. People were saying they didn’t do volunteer work or they couldn’t help because they were booked that day.”
“A week before all of this, I had posted about a dog that I picked up and I was trying to find a home for, and, man, it went viral,” Rico said. “It got, like, 3,000 views, but when it comes to a human, I wasn’t getting the same traction. My husband had to tell me that, unfortunately, that is how society is sometimes. A lot of children are put to the side, which is just devastating to me.”
But Rico was determined to make this party happen.
“I gave it one more shot and called Bryan Boyd, who did my wedding reception, and he was, like, ‘OK.’ I was, like, ‘OK, what?’ He was, like, ‘OK, I’ll help you make this viral.’”
With his professional experience on board, things started to move forward quickly.
On a GoFundMe, she raised $1,150 dollars to purchase all the party supplies.
In addition, she used the funds raised to purchase clothes, shoes, and other items the children’s home listed as desperately needed by the children.
“They thought they were just going to have a normal dinner and then go back for bath time and then back to their dorms,” Rico said. “They got a lot more than that.”
“I chose this place because my parents loved the missions, and we would always go sightseeing, and this place was on the way to the missions,” she said. “I knew it was an orphanage before, and now it is a children’s home, but that is all I knew about it. Then, I did more research and found that this was the largest facility in San Antonio. What better way to go big or go home, right?”
“I want my kids to know from this event that they can make a difference, and if it is an idea, to not think it is crazy,” Rico said. “Make it happen. I want them to be humanitarian and humble and to live that legacy. Have an open heart for others.”
“We are here for just more than ourselves, and I want them to understand what that big global picture is,” Rico said. “Take a step back and look beyond yourself and really just have an open heart through it all.”
Praise God for how He used this simple children’s story to change Amanda Rico’s heart to be focused back on others instead of herself.
You can get a copy of the book yourself by clicking here.