Hip-hop music reverberates off the walls as a mass of teens dressed in semi-formal attire gather on the dance floor.Others grab a bite to eat and mingle around the spacious room at Hockessin Memorial Hall.

On the surface, the scene could describe any random teenage party, but in fact, this is not a typical birthday celebration. When guests arrived at Christina des Groseilliers' sweet sixteen party on Jan. 4, they left presents at home and instead donated to a charity.

Des Groseilliers, a Franklin resident and sophomore at Ursuline Academy, asked her guests to make a contribution to the Children and Youth Program at The Mary Campbell Center (The Center) in lieu of giving her birthday gifts.

The Center, located in Wilmington, is specially designed to support those with disabilities, and houses 66 residents. In addition, its Children and Youth Program offers social and recreational opportunities for children and teens with special needs like des Groseilliers' seven-year-old brother Robby.

After watching her brother benefit from participating in activities at The Mary Campbell Center, and visiting the center herself, des Groseilliers said she was inspired to give back.

"I thought it was so amazing how they did so much for these kids," she said. "I realized the best way to help was through a donation, and the best way I could do that was through a party."

Indeed, the party raised $2,521 in donations from the

100-plus guests who attended. Representatives from The Mary Campbell Center received a check of $2,521.

According to Children and Youth Program Director Karleen O'Brien-McCann, the funds will go toward adding an extra club program and providing more opportunities for youth to enjoy the center.

"We were amazed and stunned," said O'Brien-McCann of The Mary Campbell Center's reaction to des Groseilliers'birthday contribution. "It's not typical of a 16-year-old to give all of her gifts to charity."

Party guests echoed O'Brien-McCann's sentiments.

"I think it was a really sweet and thoughtful thing to do, especially on her sixteenth birthday," said Allison Lee, a friend from

Avon Grove High School.

This is not the first time des Groseilliers has demonstrated her commitment to helping those in need. She has participated in a variety of community service activities in the past, including working at a summer bible camp and acting as an "elf" at the Rockwood Center.

This spring she plans on becoming involved with "Project R.A.K.E.," a program through her church in which she will help repair homes for needy Southern Chester County families.

As a student at Ursuline Academy, the message of serving others is further ingrained in des Groseilliers' character. The school emphasizes community service and requires that all students complete 80 hours by the end of their sophomore year.

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