Girl with ‘giving heart’ makes a difference for kids in need

| July 17, 2012 | 1 Comment

Eight-year-old’s vision leads to creation of Simon Says Give charity

Mandi Simon, left, and her mother Dina fill gift bags with goodies for a birthday party. Mandi has formed a nonprofit corporation called Simon Says Give to throw birthday parties for children whose families don’t have money for a party. Mandi will be a fourth-grader at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights. The family belongs to St. Peter in Mendota. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The way Mandi Simon looks at it, every child should have a birthday party.

To put on birthday parties for kids whose families don’t have money for a celebration, Mandi wanted to start a company.

Mandi is 8 years old.

She’s going into the fourth grade at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights.

Despite her age, Mandi’s company is a reality. Simon Says Give is a registered 501c3 nonprofit corporation with a board of directors, business cards and website.

Birthday parties already have been held for three children from families in need in the Twin Cities area.

“We have games and activities,” Mandi explained from her kitchen table in Eagan. “We do arts and crafts, and we have music. We have cake, play some more and give them a birthday gift.”

“We bring a lot of games — Bingo, Jenga, Twister — we play volleyball with balloons,” Mandi added, and she laughed, obviously remembering the fun.

Mandi’s mom, Dina Simon, said her daughter’s concern for others surely comes from the faith-infused education she’s receiving at Visitation, but not completely.

“It comes out of her heart,” Dina Simon said. “Mandi’s got a giving heart. She wants to make a difference in the world.”

Kids need stuff

As an only child, Mandi has everything she could ever want, her mom said, and for years Mandi has asked for donations to others instead of birthday gifts.

She’s done some kind of fundraising project each of the past four years.

“A lot of kids don’t really get a lot of stuff,” Mandi said matter-of-factly, “and they don’t always have the stuff they need.”

Instead of toys, she’s collected items such as canned food and pajamas, asking for donations from family, friends, neighbors and people from school.

“Last year I asked for backpacks and school supplies,” Mandi said. “We ended up with six fully loaded back packs to give to children who needed them.”

The Visitation Sisters who live in a home-like monastery in an impoverished area of north Minneapolis have become the Simons’ helpers in finding needy families, both for receiving donations and the birthday parties.

Mandi, with her mom and dad Rich, has visited the monastery and met with families and children the sisters have invited over. To be respectful, the children’s parents or grandparents are asked if a birthday party for one of the children age 5 to 12 would be OK with them.

Parties are held at venues such as the Eagan Community Center, and teen volunteers have helped with games and crafts.

Vision to grow

So far, a few donations have made the birthday parties successful, but Mandi’s vision — and why a company is needed — is to make birthday parties like this an experience for a lot more needy children.

Dina Simon explained: “We think there are a lot more Mandis out there. With the website up now, there’s the potential that a lot more young people who want to make a difference in the world will want to help with a project like Simon Says Give.”

As a parent, she sees this as a great opportunity to teach the joy of giving, to help children who have much engage with those who have little, and to reinforce important values.

Both kids and adults are invited to fundraise and donate to support the new charity. A slick new website — — has all the details for how young and old can get involved.

The website includes stories and photos from past birthday parties, and information about how a person or a company can donate so even more children who have less than others can enjoy their birthday with a party courtesy of the company Simon Says Give, Mandi Simon, founder and chief charity officer.

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Category: Local News, Spotlight