Teen donates Christmas money to charity

Published 12:43 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

Olivia Durphy’s Christmas list was short and sweet. 

The George Rogers Clark High School sophomore asked for only one thing: for her mother to donate what she would typically spend on Christmas to charity.

Olivia, 15, wanted her mom to donate her Christmas money to BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE.

“I heard about it through my pastor at our church,” Olivia said. “Every year, our church does something to do with giving to other countries or other people in other places, and this year it was to BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE., which we did last year too.”

According to its website, BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE. was founded in 2012. It is dedicated to helping children globally and locally through volunteer mobilization by way of an annual Christmas tree sale.

“We buy all these Christmas trees, and then people can come and buy the Christmas trees, and that money will go straight to the organization, which helps with the children in other countries get food, have an education, have a place to live,” Olivia said.

With a rapidly-growing number of community-oriented churches, BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE. has locations in 17 U.S. states mobilizing generosity movements to help children. 

All proceeds raised during the project go directly to the cause through People for Care and Learning, Serving Orphans Worldwide and partnerships that serve children in the local communities.

“This organization specifically was helping kids get off the streets so they won’t end up in sex trafficking, and that particularly really touches my heart because I think it’s so sad and awful for these kids my age, even younger than me, to be in this awful situation,” Olivia said. “…I wanted to help these kids not be in that situation.”

Olivia said she initially made the decision in late summer. 

“I was praying to God about how I just really wanted him to use me in so many ways, and I wanted to be a light somehow,” she said. “… I just felt like God was telling me to do something, meaning use the money that mom would spend on my Christmas gifts and give it to some sort of organization to help other children. And so when I heard about BUY A TREE. SAVE A LIFE., I was like I want to do that because these children are my age, and they need more stuff and more help than I need because I’m so blessed.”

Jessica Durphy, Olivia’s mother, said she so proud and thankful Olivia was willing to sacrifice her Christmas for such a gift.

Jessica donated the money, just as Olivia asked. But Jessica said it was difficult for her because she wanted Olivia to have a good Christmas like her brother and sister. 

“I thought it was so sweet, but I also thought, ‘oh she’ll get over this’ … but that is not what happened because on Black Friday, which is when I usually do my shopping, she was quick to remind me about what she wanted,” Jessica said. “And so, I’ll be honest, and you can ask a lot of my friends, I struggled with her decision because I kept thinking to myself … how is she gonna feel when my other two kids open presents and she sits there, watching them and her not getting anything? But I wanted to honor her decision, so I did.

“I got her a couple of things just because that’s what a mom does … She didn’t get what the others did … but I’m so thankful she was wanting to be a giving person.”

But when Christmas came, Olivia was blessed far more than any gift Jessica would have purchased. 

On Christmas morning, Olivia opened a box filled with letters from teenage girls, writing to tell her of how BUY A TREE. CHANGE A LIFE. has saved their lives and how they loved Olivia for helping them. Olivia also received a picture of the young women she helped. 

“I was not expecting it at all,” Olivia said. “I was expecting the money to go into the organization and help the children, but I was not expecting to get letters specifically written to me. All I wanted from it was that at least one kid or person would be helped through my mom and my decision, and knowing that at least five or six girls were helped and they knew it was me who helped them just touched my heart so much because I didn’t expect it at all. I was satisfied, very very happy about it.”

Jessica and Olivia both cried reading the letters Christmas morning.

“It was beautiful to me,” Jessica said. 

Olivia may even get to fly to Cambodia to meet the young women she helped, Jessica said, as Jessica heard from the gentleman over the organization, who told her BUY A TREE. SAVE A LIFE. was already seeing the impact of their donation and the ripple effect as it has inspired others to donate.

For anyone who wants to donate, go to buyatreechangealife.com. 

Now that Christmas is over, Olivia said she would do it all over again. 

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Olivia said. “I just feel very happy that I did it, that I went through with it because now knowing children and these girls were helped because of the decision I and my mom made… it just makes it all the more wonderful that I did it.”

About Lashana Harney

Lashana Harney is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. Her beats include schools and education, business and commerce, Winchester Municipal Utilities and other news. To contact her, email lashana.harney@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0015.

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