“It's better to give than to receive.”

"It's better to give than to receive."

That was the message behind a recent birthday party for two Carthage sisters, Olivia and Ava Bourgault. As the girls welcomed their friends and classmates at the Carthage Municipal Roller Skating Rink on Friday, guests were bringing donations of food instead of birthday gifts. The family made a request that their fun time also benefit the Hungry Tiger Backpack Program with the Carthage R-9 School District.

"They wanted to do something to donate to the program," said the girls' mother, Kamie. "Oh yes, I am very proud. I think it's a good thing – we just want them to know you can serve at all times. It's not all about them, and it teaches them to think of others."

Olivia, a third grader at Mark Twain Elementary School, turned nine on March 21; and Ava, a first grader at Mark Twain, turned seven on March 28. According to the family, it was more of Olivia's idea.

"I had to tell Sissy, 'a lot of kids don't have money' and that they need food," Olivia said, explaining how she talked her little sister into joining her effort. "She said 'OK.' We did this because the only other time everyone gets presents is at Christmas time."

The girls' giving gesture has touched many lives, but to Amy Grimes, the director of the Carthage R-9 Foundation, it wasn't a shock.

"I am truly not surprised," she said. "They're such awesome girls and they're from an awesome family. They have huge hearts."

Jennifer Simpson, mother of a fellow third grader at Mark Twain, said she was very happy to be a part of the special birthday party.

"The backpack program is great," she said. "I think they're growing up – I hope they always stay close. What a great way to build character and have fun while you're doing it? I'm pretty proud of them all. They're just awesome kids. I'm thankful my daughter is a part of it."