Malcolm Hammond forgoes gifts for a good cause
During the holiday season, when getting sometimes overshadows giving, a generous gesture by 11-year-old Malcolm Hammond of Edgartown stands out.
Ask most kids what they want for their birthdays, and they rattle off a long list. Not so for Malcolm, whose family's beloved 13-year-old black Labrador retriever died only a few weeks before his birthday.
The invitation he sent to his fifth-grade Edgartown School classmates for his November 28 birthday party included an unusual request. Instead of gifts, Malcolm asked his friends to make a donation to the Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard.
As a result, donations from classmates that attended his ice-skating party at the MV Ice Arena added up to $145 for the animal shelter.
"It was kind of Mom and Dad's idea, but I wanted to do it myself because of Orvis, our dog, who died a couple of weeks ago, and because I'm a real big animal lover," Malcolm said in a recent phone call.
"What I thought was funny was that some kids didn't get it at first," Malcolm added. "They kept asking what I really wanted. I just told them to look at the invitation."
Although Malcolm admitted it wasn't easy giving up a once a year opportunity to get birthday gifts, he said he was glad he did.
His mother, Melissa Hammond, said she got the idea for donations in lieu of birthday gifts from a birthday party her children attended a few years ago. "Kids these days don't need more things," she said. "It's a good lesson to learn."
Ms. Hammond said she and Malcolm's father, Andrew Hammond, talked to him about the idea of donating to a good cause, and Malcolm picked the Animal Shelter.
"Andrew and I had talked about it before, but you have to have a child that's willing to do it," Ms. Hammond pointed out.
Another reason the animal shelter came to mind for Malcolm is because of his family's two cats, Henry and Mudge. About three years ago, he helped his Mom pick them out as kittens at the shelter at Christmastime.
In addition to donations to the animal shelter, Malcolm's birthday party invitation suggested the option of buying a toy to donate to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
"We got a lot of parents thinking about what a wonderful idea it is," Ms. Hammond said. "Maybe we started a trend."
After receiving Malcolm's donation, the Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard board asked Dukes County Manager Russell Smith to send him a letter acknowledging his generous and thoughtful gift.
"Your selfless idea of using your 11th Birthday Party to collect money for the Animal Shelter in lieu of gifts shows an unusual community awareness for your age," Mr. Smith wrote. "We are happy to report that your efforts resulted in hundreds of dollars being donated to the shelter for the care and well being of the animals."
In conclusion, he quoted Mohandas Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
Additional donations received because of Malcolm brought the total to over $200, Mr. Smith said this week.
The late Katharine M. Foote founded the Vineyard shelter that bears her name in 1933. In 1947 she deeded the Edgartown property on which the shelter is located on the corner of Pennywise Path and Vineyard Haven Road to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA).
The MSPCA withdrew from operating the animal shelter on May 1 because of financial constraints, but is leasing the building and equipment to the newly formed Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard at no cost.
Dukes County commissioners agreed to provide administrative support for the shelter, and fund operations from the county's reserve account, with the understanding that the six Island towns would reimburse the county. But so far, thanks to generous donors like Malcolm and dedicated volunteers, the shelter has not drawn on any public funds.
Mr. Smith's letter also encouraged Malcolm to visit the shelter to see the good work his donations support. However, Malcolm said he probably wouldn't visit the shelter any time soon, at least not with his mother. "If there's a cute kitten or puppy there, it's hard for her to leave without bringing it home," he explained.
Not that he and his sisters, Charlotte, 12, and Tessa, 6, would mind. Malcolm said in addition to mourning the loss of Orvis, they all still miss Zoey, the family's 180-pound English Mastiff that died a few years ago.
With his love of animals and his favorite subjects math and science in school, it's no surprise that Malcolm says he is interested in becoming a veterinarian.