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8-year-old Gabbie Evanson decided instead of getting a bunch of birthday presents for herself on her recent birthday she wanted to donate gifts to foster kids in Grand Forks. Gabbie, who was adopted by her foster mother, Tracy Evanson, ended up bringing 66 gift bags to social services in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

For her birthday, Grand Forks girl isn’t asking for presents for herself

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At her birthday party last week, 8-year-old Gabrielle “Gabbie” Evanson received 66 presents and none of them were for her.

They were for foster children in Grand Forks County.

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“It was Gabbie’s idea to do this,” said her mother, Tracy Evanson. “She came to me several months ago and said ‘I have so much stuff, and I think for this year I don't need to get any more gifts, and we can just donate it to foster kids.’”

Gabbie said she got the idea watching TV. “There’s a commercial on Disney channel that was asking for shoes to donate to an orphanage so I came up with the idea about donating to foster care.”

The Grand Forks girl has been aware of the foster care program her whole life, according to her mother. Before the Evansons adopted her, they were her foster parents for a year.

“I’ve had her since birth. I brought her home from the hospital,” said Tracy. “She’s always had a really kind heart.”

Making difference

Donations like Gabbie’s are greatly appreciated by foster children who often leave home in an emergency with all their belongings in a garbage bag, according to Wayne Piche, the county’s family services supervisor.

“We were very happy (about her donation),” he said, “The kids are ecstatic when they see that.”

There are currently 206 kids in the custody of county Social Services, 65 percent more than in 2013, he said. “This is very high in relative to other major areas in the state,” he said. “The increase is tremendous; it’s putting a strain on our system.”

Upon arriving at Social Services, each child is given their own duffle bag, blanket, a teddy bear, and many times a night light. The donations are a bonus for the children.

“We want to give the kids a sense of self worth by giving them things that are theirs to keep,” Piche said.

The party

Before sending out her party invitations, Tracy and Gabbie contacted Social Services to ask for a list of toys social workers thought foster kids would like best. A list, which included outdoor toys, crayons and coloring books, went out with each invitation.

Besides Gabbie’s friends, Tracy said she also invited friends, family and co-workers.

“We did not expect to get as many gifts as we did,” she said. “As things kept coming in, her excitement built.”

“I think the toys will make them happy and excited they got something new,” said Gabbie, “It made me really happy.”

“I am very proud of her,” her mother said, “and our friends and family thought it was very altruistic.”

According to Tracy, one of the best things about the birthday party was that it opened up conversation with parents of Gabbie’s friends. “One of her friends who came to the party decided to do her birthday party donating to the Humane Society. (Gabbie) inspired this idea in other kids which I think is very cool.”

Though her ninth birthday isn’t for another 355 days, Tracy said Gabbie is already thinking about what she wants to do next year.  

Call Haugesag at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1262; or send email to ahaugesag@gfherald.com

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