8-Year-Old Girl Hosts Birthday Party In The Most Unlikely Venue

Think back to your earliest birthday parties from when you were a child. Did you go to the movies? The arcade? Or maybe you decided to keep it low-key and have the gathering in your backyard. Most kids are pretty easy to satisfy when it comes to their birthday — others, however, have more than just a cake and presents in mind.

When one Atlanta eight-year-old saw that the clock was ticking down to her special day, she knew a trip to the bowling alley and a few slices of pizza weren’t going to cut it. That’s why when her guests finally received their invitations, they traded in their party hats for outfits most people would never expect children to be wearing.

After all, kids birthday parties have taken on some pretty crazy shapes over the last decade. When money isn’t an object, even long-extinct creatures may pop by for a slice of cake.

Jurassic Extreme

But for soon-to-be eight-year-old Brayden Lawrence, dinosaurs were the last thing on her mind. For her big day, she wanted a party unlike anything any other elementary schooler had done before.

braydenlawrence0216 / Instagram

Sure, Brayden could’ve gone with a few pink balloons and a princess-themed party — that, however, wasn’t this little girl’s style. But while most parents would be thrilled to keep a kid’s birthday simple, this only made things more complicated for Brayden’s family.

Ben Jamieson / Flickr

So, instead of throwing up their hands and booking a two-hour slot at Chuck E. Cheese, they decided to ask the birthday girl herself. Unfortunately, Brayden’s perfect party venue wasn’t exactly what you’d call kids birthday material.

Emily Harrington / Chambanamoms

Brayden wanted to have her party at her favorite retail store in the area, one she’d spent countless hours in happily walking up and down the aisles. The request was an odd one, though the biggest question on her family’s mind was, “Can we really make this happen?”

@braydenlawrence0126 / Instagram

Brayden’s mom, Jessica, started by reaching out to the store’s manager, hoping that he’d at least be willing to hear her out — after all, no one had ever proposed having a birthday party in the middle of a retail store’s busy workday.

Ben’s Bargains

But to her surprise, the store manager and his employees were ecstatic over the idea, even going as far as to offer their help in carrying out the plan. The party was officially a go, but with Brayden’s birthday only a few weeks away, there was no time to waste.

Alongside Brayden’s aunt, Rikki Jackson, Jessica set to work on all the special details of the party, including activities, custom invitations, and goodies for the kids. She even contacted a local bakery to custom-make a cake for the big day.

And when that day finally arrived, Brayden’s friends couldn’t wait to see what big birthday bash her family had cooked up. But when they hopped out of their cars and glanced up at the name of the party venue, some wondered if maybe they’d been given the wrong address…

The Adventures of TEB(OT)

It was a Target! The kids were puzzled over the thought of having a birthday party in the same place you can buy underwear, though as they walked through the sliding doors and into the cool blast of AC, they were stunned by Brayden’s outfit.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

There was Brayden, decked out in a red shirt, tan khakis, and a name tag — just like a Target employee. At the sight of the giddy birthday girl’s smiling face, all their reservations went out the door. But what does a Target party look like?

@RikDrip / Twitter

Jessica and Rikki started off by giving all the guests their own Target outfits just like Brayden’s. “I think that’s when we were all like, ‘Woah, this is happening, we really did it.’ They were so excited that they had the actual uniforms,” Rikki explained.

Rikki Jackson / Bailey Lawrence

From there, it was time for some party games, including a scavenger hunt throughout the entire store. Yet this wasn’t your ordinary find-the-item game — it had a special Target twist.

Rikki Jackson

“All the items on the hunt were based around things that Brayden loves like ‘Frozen,’ Shopkins, and Power Rangers,” Rikki told Business Insider. “After they found their items, they had to do what every Target employee does: Put the items back in their rightful places.”

Bailey Lawrence

Following the hard work (and fun, of course), each child was given a $10 Target gift card to spend on any item of their choosing. The kids loved this new take on party favors — after all, who wouldn’t want to run wild through a Target with free money?

Mike Mozart / Flickr

When it came time for each child to check out, they had a special guest cashier waiting to help them out. Behind the counter of register eight — in honor of her eighth birthday — Brayden stood with her scanner and happily rung them up.

Rikki Jackson

All the while, Target customers were still shopping throughout the store, though most hardly minded the adorable 8-year-old as she and her friends partied away. In fact, some shoppers even wanted to get in on the action!

“The last parts of the party were happening while traffic in the store started to pick up and just seeing the reactions of all the customers were priceless,” Rikki shared. “People were like, ‘What’s going on? This is so cute!’ and even trying to get in Brayden’s register line to be checked out.”

Rikki Jackson

Yet no party would be complete without a birthday cake, and Brayden’s was truly a Target lover’s dream. Guests were also given goodies featuring Target’s logo and mascot, Bullseye, making sure to wash it all down with an ICEE from the Target café.

Rikki Jackson

After Brayden waved her friends off as the party came to an end, Jessica and Rikki admitted they were already planning to go all-out once again for the little girl’s ninth birthday. “I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s going to love next year,” Rikki joked, “but whatever it is, we’ll definitely make it happen.”

@RikDrip / Twitter

Sometimes, however, all a child wants for their birthday is a chance to give back. And after what Jeff and Julie Bryan had been through with their daughter Addie from the time she was born, they were more than happy to honor their little girl’s request.

The moment they laid eyes on Addie, the Bryans saw something was wrong. Their baby had hip dysplasia, a club foot, and two knees that bent backwards. With a rare case of Larsen syndrome, the doctors doubted she’d ever walk.

Just days old, Addie underwent her first surgery. Dozens and dozens more followed over the next few years, with the Bryans estimating that their daughter went through 70 casts throughout her early childhood.

Fox News

The Bryans placed their full faith in the staff of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, located near their home in Dallas. Over the years, it built a sterling reputation for treating orthopedic conditions, particularly in children.

After years of medical intervention, there still wasn’t assurance that Addy would be able to lead a normal childhood. But amid all the darkness, the Bryans still clung tightly to a glimmer of hope — one member especially.

By the time she reached seven years old, Addy didn’t see herself as any different from other kids. She made the best of everything, despite her situation. Soon, her results began to impress everyone around her.

Though her legs still retained a slightly bent shape, Addie’s range of movement grew by leaps and bounds. Before long, she started to spend more time zipping around on her scooter than cooped up in the hospital.

USA Today

And that wasn’t all. She could even run! Everyone understood that she had come an incredibly long way from her troubled infancy. There was no doubt about Addie’s good fortune, but something started to nag at her.

Julie Bryan

With her eighth birthday approaching, Addie knew she was incredibly lucky. Thanks to the folks at Scottish Rite Hospital, she could run, walk, and jump wherever she wanted. Addie only hoped every other kid could do the same.

One morning, Julie Bryan found her daughter tallying up her meager life’s savings. Addie shocked her by saying that she wasn’t just doing this for fun. She was looking to make a donation.

Addie wanted to make a real difference for the Scottish Rite Hospital in the form of a donation. Her mom suggested she open a lemonade stand with a couple friends to raise more money, but ultimately, that tactic only raised $60.

Parents Magazine

So, knowing she needed to get more aggressive, she grabbed a marker and some poster board and drew up a sign requesting donations for the hospital. Then, she ran out to her street corner in hopes of collecting a fortune.

Despite the sweltering Texas heat, Addie had an easy time standing on the corner once she saw the contributions roll in. Neighbors and complete strangers alike seemed happy to help out even if it was with just a few dollars.

After a couple months, Addie had built up a nice pile of money. Still, she was really looking to make a big fundraising leap in the final weeks before her birthday. Addie thought she could expand her operations beyond the street corner.

ABC News

Addie and her parents reached out to a local restaurant called the Cotton Patch Cafe. They agreed to hold a charity event, and Addie went all out! Channeling her inner Pat Sajak, she set up a wheel of prizes to pack the house.

By the time her eighth birthday rolled around, Addie raised a whopping $19,500 for the hospital. For an institution that relied so much on charitable donations, this was huge. Not even Addie’s parents could believe she singlehandedly raised such a sum.

Her efforts gained a lot of attention. A number of outlets shared her story, from her local news station to People magazine! A live TV interview was a good birthday present, to be sure, but Addie was about to get a better one.

FOX 4 News

Stephanie Brigger, the hospital’s Vice President of Development, called the Bryans to share some big news: an anonymous donor felt so touched by Addie’s story that he decided to share a contribution of his own.

WFAA

The Good Samaritan sent Scottish Rite an additional $50,000 in Addie’s name. That meant this eight year old’s donation totaled just under 70k! Most people couldn’t believe it, but this was exactly what Addie wanted.

She said she was glad to give so many other kids a shot at a happy life, as her gift could provide countless casts and prosthetics. Addie Bryan didn’t need anything else for her birthday. She proved that the best gift is giving back.

We tend to underestimate just how big a difference young people can make. But especially in the age of social media, they can truly change lives. When 18-year-old Tyrel Wolfe received an unusual friend request on Facebook one afternoon, he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

The request was from a young Filipino woman named Joana Marchan, and Tyrel was certain that they’d never met, let alone even been in the same country. Believing it to be just another scam, Tyrel declined the invitation.

Several years passed, and the strange friend request became a distant memory. He wasn’t much for Facebook anymore, but while casually checking his profile one day he noticed a new request in his inbox. The sender? Joana Marchan.

Tyrel’s interest was piqued, but his parents, wary of the type of people you find online, were understandably worried about this interest in their son. Still, Tyrel couldn’t resist getting to the bottom of this mystery. He opened the request and clicked “Confirm.”

Tyrel messaged the young woman, whose response only made things even more unclear: “you know about the Samaritan’s purse?” Tyrel was dumbfounded. What could this possibly mean? Was it some sort of code? Then, all at once, it hit him.

Samaritan’s Purse was a non-profit through which a seven-year-old Tyrel had donated a shoebox full of gifts as part of a charity program called Operation Christmas Child. But why, 11 years later, was this stranger from the Philippines contacting him about Christmas presents? And, most importantly, how did she know about his donation?

Then, Joana came clean: it was she that had received Tyrel’s shoebox all those years ago! Tyrel was blown away by the news, but even so, he was still skeptical of the young woman’s motivations. After all, how was he to know if “Joana” was really who she said she was? He needed proof.

Faithit

Tyrel questioned Joana about the contents of his gift, but she was unable to recall anything specific about the shoebox. He was ready to write her off, but at the last minute, Joana brought up one key item that proved she was telling the truth.

In the original shoebox, Tyrel had included a picture of himself at the time of the donation. Joana recalled the photo in perfect detail, describing his “cute cowboy” outfit and the “wooden background” of the image. Without a doubt, Joana was exactly who she said she was — and the story of she and Tyrel was only just beginning.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

Though most would go their separate ways after a one-off encounter like this, Tyrel and Joana stayed in touch and soon discovered they shared many of the same interests. Eventually, the pair was talking every day, and their Facebook chats soon blossomed into a fully-fledged friendship.

Over the next year and a half, Tyrel began saving up in the hope of visiting Joana after he graduated high school. As soon as he’d met his goal, he messaged Joana and immediately booked the next flight to the Philippines.

Business Traveler

Long plane rides are rough on everyone, but being that Tyrel had never left the country alone before, the 14-hour trip from Idaho to the Philippines was especially tough. But no matter how difficult the journey, it was all worth it for Tyrel when he arrived to find Joana and her family waiting at the airport to welcome him.

What was meant to be a short visit for Tyrel became a month-long stay as he and Joana discovered that their connection was deeper and more real than they could’ve ever imagined. It was clear that the Facebook friends were becoming something much more.

Ty Wolfe / Facebook

Unfortunately, Tyrel had to say goodbye to Joana, but he knew in his heart that he couldn’t stay away for long. Putting in extra hours of part-time work between his college classes, Tyrel scrounged up enough money to make another trip back to the Philippines.

His second trip to see Joana was even better than the first, and it wasn’t long before the two had fallen in love. After learning a good amount of Tagalog – the native language of the Philippines – Tyrel approached Joana’s father to ask for one very important thing: his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Joana’s father agreed in a heartbeat, but her mother, fearing the couple was moving fast, was hesitant to give her blessing. Tyrel was heartbroken, but the young man was unwilling to leave the Philippines without the woman he loved by his side.

In a last-ditch effort, Tyrel convinced his father to fly in from Idaho to meet Joana and hopefully ease the tensions between him and her family. After several weeks of discussions, Tyrel and his father finally persuaded Joana’s mother to agree to the proposal.

In October of 2014, just five months after their engagement, the couple wed in a simple ceremony at Tyrel’s parents’ ranch. In lieu of wedding gifts, the newlyweds made an unusual request that brought their unconventional love story full circle.

Tyrel Wolfe / Facebook

Tyrel and Joana asked that each guest bring a shoebox of gifts to be donated to none other than Samaritan’s Purse! They also asked their guests to include a note about Tyrel and Joana’s story in each box to show how one small act of kindness can completely change someone’s life.

San Ynez Valley Star

After their wedding, Joana agreed to leave her home in the Philippines behind in favor of small-town life with Tyrel in Idaho. Their quiet country home was soon filled with the pitter patter of tiny feet, as not long after Joana gave birth to their first child, a baby boy named Harlann Jun Wolfe.

Marvin Quemado / Facebook

Even with lives made busy by work and parenting, Tyrel and Joana still make it a tradition to deliver shoe boxes every year. It might not seem like much, but as the unlikely couple can attest to: you never know what kind of good can come from a shoe box.

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