While many will celebrate their 30th birthdays this year with cake and booze, a group of Memphis women are using the milestone as an opportunity to help others.
Fifteen friends, most of whom met while attending the University of Tennessee, will turn 30 between the June 23rd launch of their "Cry Me a River" project and the finale party in June of next year.
To celebrate, the friends have vowed to perform 30 good deeds throughout the year, all while raising money for Charity:Water, a national nonprofit that provides safe, clean drinking water in developing countries.
The idea was born when the women realized it'd be too difficult to celebrate 15 birthdays with individual parties. Nine of the women are in Memphis, but the other six live in Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Knoxville, and Atlanta. The group typically takes an annual girls-only birthday trip, but this year a few friends asked if their husbands and boyfriends could come.
"Our single friends said no way. It's always been a girl's trip. No guys are allowed," said Lori Spicer, manager of community affairs and engagement at the Regional Medical Center of Memphis. Spicer headed up organization of the "Cry Me a River" project.
When some friends said they'd rather have birthday parties instead, Spicer tossed around the idea of having one large party in Memphis next June. But rather than having a regular birthday bash, she suggested making the party a fund-raiser. The women voted on their favorite charities, and Charity:Water was selected.
But the philanthropy doesn't stop there. The women also made a pledge to perform 30 good deeds in the coming year. Their mission begins this week, and they've identified a list of activities to participate in each month.
Those include neighborhood clean-ups, doing minor home repairs and yardwork for low-income seniors, sending military care packages, developing a community garden on St. Patrick's Day, painting a mural for the UrbanArts Commission, and participating in local charity races like Race for the Cure, LUVMUD, and Mertitan's Midnight Bike Tour.
"For the out-of-town people, we're trying to identify similar organizations in their area so they don't have to travel to Memphis every month," Spicer said. "But we're really just trying to do 30 good deeds each, so they can also substitute something else."
Spicer said the group also plans to work with schools to engage youth in raising money for Charity:Water while increasing students' awareness of the clean-water crisis facing developing countries.
"We take our clean water for granted in Memphis," Spicer said. "We have great, plentiful water, but there's over a billion people around the world who don't have access to clean or safe drinking water."
At the end of the year-long campaign, Spicer said she'd love to send the student group that raised the most money to a developing country to help build a well with Charity:Water.
In keeping with the water-related theme, the finale party next summer will be held on a riverboat. Guests will be asked to make a minimum donation of $30 to benefit Charity:Water.
"We're calling the party 'Uncharted Waters' because we're all turning 30," Spicer said. "People are telling us we're going to be adults now."