Girl gives away her birthday gifts
Grandmother’s fight with cancer motivates generosity
By Holly Neumann
Jenna Kurki, 8, of Iola is just like any other child her age.
She loves to play, have fun and, of course, looks forward to her birthday each year.
This year however, her party was much different than in the past.
Jenna’s friends were invited to a dance party to celebrate.
“They could come in their fanciest clothes if they wished,” said Joy Kurki, Jenna’s mother. “Twelve kids were able to come. One boy even arrived with a suit jacket and tie on.”
When asked if she danced with any of the boys, Jenna adamantly shakes her head no.
“I did dance, but not with them,” she said, giggling.
But what made the day even more special was the generosity she exhibited on her special day.
“My invitations told everyone that I was going to donate presents to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield for kids with cancer,” Jenna said. “I wanted to help kids that don’t have hair, so they won’t feel lonely and they have some toys to play with. I wanted to help make them happy.”
Though Jenna does not completely understand what cancer is, she has watched her grandmother, Marie Skowen, struggle with the disease.
“My grandma has cancer,” Jenna said. “I have seen her get sick and lose her hair. Sometimes it’s a little scary.”
Skowen could not be prouder of her granddaughter for her actions.
“One day I was having blood drawn and there was a little boy in there having his blood drawn, too,” Marie said. “He had a cap on and sat across from me.”
Skowen shared her story with Jenna and encouraged her to give to the hospital.
“It is part of our job to make other people happy,” she said. “Jenna has always enjoyed helping people. I am so proud of her for wanting to do this.”
The family traveled together to drop off the donation of baby dolls, coloring book, colored pencils, race cars, stuffed animals and more.
“The nurses thanked me for doing this,” Jenna said. “They said I was brave and unselfish.”
According to Jenna, her mom and papa (Wayne Skowen) cried when she made the donation.
“I’m very proud of Jenna for thinking of others on her special day,” Joy said. “Being able to realize that it’s not important to receive toys, that the real gift is being able to spend time with family and friends.”
She added that party guests were excited to see what everyone donated.
“Many of the kids thought really hard on what kind of gift to donate to the hospital,” said Joy. “They wanted to make sure the gifts were something the kids of all ages, both boys and girls, would enjoy. It was great to see them thinking of others who may be in a tough situation.”
“Some of my friends even said that they should do this for their next birthday,” Jenna said. “I am glad I did it because I like being nice to people.”
Jenna is the daughter of Darin and Joy Kurki of Iola.