For her birthday this year instead of receiving, a 13-year-old Pekin girl ended up gathering and donating 25 bags of essentials each to the Salvation Army and the Peoria Center of Prevention of Abuse.

Emma Michael turned 13 on April 7. She and her mother, Janice Michael, had narrowed down birthday plans to three options: renting out a movie theater, doing a murder mystery roleplay or a mall scavenger hunt.

“And so randomly she comes in, and she says, ‘Oh, I know what I want to do for my birthday,’” Janice recalled. “And I’m like, ‘OK,’ and I get my notepad out and I’m like, ‘I’m ready.’ (Then Emma said) ‘I want to donate to (the) Center (for) Prevention of Abuse.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s not what we talked about.’ We had a whole other list of stuff. So, I was surprised.”

“I mean, I’m not surprised that she would come up with something like this,” Janice added. “She’s always doing stuff like this. She’s pretty selfless.”

The 13-year-old has a lot of stuff. Too much stuff, Emma said. The solution she came up with was to give rather than receive. The Center for Prevention of Abuse was picked mainly due to convenience, it’s in the general area. Emma did, however, look up all the area homeless shelters, and the Center (for) Prevention of Abuse stood out to her most.

Seeing online that the center hosted mostly women and children, Emma thought it would be nice to donate to them. The amount she would need to collect also wasn’t overwhelming since the number of people at the center isn’t too large.

Emma wanted to get them essentials. She and her mother asked the center what their needs were, and the two went off to collect things like water, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, razors, shaving cream, lotion, floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, slippers, shoes, socks and flip-flops.

Wanting to help as much as she could, Janice posted a message on her Facebook page around the end of February or the beginning of March asking for donations for the center. The message was reposted by a couple of friends and her sister. The mother and daughter started collection donations a couple weeks later.

Initially, they bought items themselves, with the plan being to donate 25 bags of essentials to the center. The Facebook post wasn’t far reaching. The donations came entirely from family and friends, most of them dropping off items when they came to Emma’s birthday party last Saturday, but the amount of donations turned out to be overwhelming, Janice said. It took them about a month to collect what ended up being 50 bags.

With such an influx of bags, the two decided to donate half to the Center for Prevention of Abuse and the other half to the Salvation Army. They even had a couple bags and a handful of other odds and ends left over. They dropped off some of the leftovers at the Salvation Army on Wednesday night and the rest, 40 toothbrushes and 40 toothpaste containers, will be dropped off at the Center for Prevention of Abuse probably next weekend.

“I think that I’ve enjoyed (this experience) more than me getting things, because I always feel awkward opening presents in front of my friends,” Emma said. “It’s just kind of like an awkward thing, but to get things for other people and to know that you’re doing a good thing, it’s makes you feel happy on the inside. And (I) want to do it more.”

Next Emma would like to try to donate to another facility or to help fight cancer or another disease. The 13-year-old said she has talked about getting donation boxes into schools, workplaces, or, similar to what Toys for Tots does, in well-known areas and stores.

“It’s nice to know that she’s generous,” Janice said. “At 13, they aren’t typically the most generous creatures.”