Rarely does one think about a freshman in high school when hearing about an entrepreneur running a nonprofit business.But that is exactly what Rinna Talwar (Roselle), freshman at St. Francis High School (Wheaton), is doing.Together with her cousin Sonika Menon, sophomore at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Rinna co-founded The Birthday Giving Program, a charitable organization which serves children, mentally and physically challenged adults, and senior citizens who might not have the opportunity or resources to celebrate their birthdays.Rinna is the founder of the Senior Citizen Division.
Inspired by their grandparents who founded a temple in Medinah, and feeling privileged by their own birthday celebrations for which their parents “go all out” to make them feel special, Rinna and Sonika realized there are many less fortunate people and they wanted to do something to give back.
“Rinna is a thoughtful young lady with a big heart and smile who follows in the path of our patron, St. Francis, by assisting anyone who is in need of a bit of extra attention. She is always looking to make a positive difference in the world and in her community,” said Ms. Marcia Kadow, Rinna’s Honors Biology teacher.
The Birthday Giving Program, which began through the generosity of Rinna’s and Sonika’s family and friends, is now completely supported though fundraising efforts, as well as donations from Jewel Foods and Walmart stores.They have partnered with more than 20 organizations throughout Chicagoland to provide their services, which include a birthday cake, snacks and party hats, a balloon and teddy bear, and a birthday bag filled with age-appropriate gifts – toys, lotions, socks, etc.Each bag costs approximately $10 to complete.
With a team of family and friends as their volunteers, Rinna and Sonika personally deliver the birthday bags to the recipients and stay for the celebration if it is desired and allowed.Recently, the business expanded to include welcome and achievement bags in response to some of the feedback received.
“We started this program in April 2017 with only two organizations, both churches in Naperville,” said Rinna. “Today we are working with over 20 organizations and adding playing the piano and games to make the celebrations more memorable. To date, we have raised about $3,500 and have delivered over 400 birthday bags.”
“Rinna is the epitome of what it means to be a good student here at St. Francis High School,” said Mr. John Schuller, Rinna’s Religion Teacher.“She is alert, always on task and pays close attention to whatever is being said by either the teacher or her classmates. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is unafraid to tell you what she’s thinking. She’s kind, conscientious and seems to be a friend to all while wearing a perpetual smile. Rinna is a joy to teach and it’s no small wonder that she is busy with her shared kindness when it comes to birthday parties! She’s true Spartan blue!”
On Friday, December 7, both Rinna and Sonika will be featured on CNN’s “Young Wonders.”With increased awareness and exposure, the girls hope to enlist more volunteers through efforts at their high schools, to help grow their program.Their business goals for the next three years project a steady increase in the number of people they gift, and therefore the need to raise funds to support their efforts.They have established a GoFundMe account and other fundraising opportunities, both of which can be accessed through their website at https://birthdaygivingprogram.club.