Grace and Faith Kozushko collected more than 2,300 pounds of food for their local food pantry.
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Birthday parties have looked a bit different amid social distancing precautions, but two Maryland sisters decided to make the best of the situation. Instead of the bowling birthday party they had been looking forward to, Grace and Faith Kozushko turned their celebrations into a food drive for the local food pantry. Rather than driving by and dropping off gifts for Grace, who turned 9 in May, and Faith, who turned 7 in June, friends, family, and strangers drove by and dropped off canned and non-perishable food for the sisters to donate. 

The girls’ mom Lynn Kozushko told us the idea came after a family discussion about the virus. Grace was born with a bone disorder called Multiple Hereditary Exostosis, so the family has been extra careful to avoid exposure to the virus. When the time came to make plans for Grace’s birthday party, they knew the bowling alley party they’d planned wasn’t going to work. 

two girls posing by a cake
The Kozushko sisters celebrated their birthdays in an unconventional way this year.
| Credit: Courtesy of Lynn Kozushko

The week before Grace’s birthday, the family participated in a drive-by celebration for Grace’s godfather who had just finished chemotherapy treatments. After the party, the girls decided this is what they wanted to do for their birthdays—but instead of gifts, they would ask for food donations that could help those in need. 

Lynn told us that because of Grace’s health concerns (in addition to her bone disorder, Grace also has autism and sensory processing disorder) her sister Faith has always been extra conscious of Grace’s needs as well as the needs of those around her. She said this is why the girls have so much empathy for others, and why they were drawn to the idea of the food drive. “They are constantly wanting to do kind things for others,” Lynn says. 

The fact that the girls wanted to help wasn’t surprising. What did shock the Kozushko family was how big of a turnout they got. 

van unloading food
More than 100 people drove by the Kozushko's home to drop off food for each girl's birthday celebration.
| Credit: Courtesy of Lynn Kozushko

“Originally they just wanted family to make donations to their local food pantries instead of birthday gifts,” Lynn said. “From there it turned into they wanted their friends to ‘honk and drop off cans and cereal and stuff’” 

Lynn shared about the planned drive-by on her Facebook page and invited the usual family and friends. Then, the invited guests began sharing about the event and encouraging their friends and community members to come by as well. “It grew beyond anything we could have imagined,” Lynn said. 

The family had over 100 people come to Grace’s drive-by, and then even more people came to Faith’s a few weeks later. Lynn says the most memorable donation came from a stranger: A man came with several flats of bulk food items he’d purchased at Costco. “He dropped it off quietly with a wave and smile,” she says. 

The family collected 1,153 pounds of food during Grace’s celebration and another 1,193 pounds during Faith’s—and food kept showing up on their porch for days after the second drive-by. All the food was donated to their church’s food pantry, where both girls were able to go help stock the shelves after all the food had been collected. 

girl stocking shelves at food pantry
Grace and Faith were able to help stock the food pantry shelves with the items donated in their honor.
| Credit: Courtesy of Lynn Kozushko

Grace said being able to help the community made her feel “good, because being a good friend is what life is about.” Faith told us the act of kindness made her feel good “because the virus has made things hard for my friends,” and she knew she was making a difference for so many. Both girls told us they want to do the event again next year. 

“As parents, we are enormously proud of them,” Lynn says. “I wouldn’t have dreamed up such a big idea but the innocent heart of a child knows no limits. Children learn by doing. I can’t wait to see what idea they dream up next.”

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