It’s your birthday. You’re turning 17, and you really wanted some new slides, a pair of sunglasses or a specific book. However, you don’t want to make a big deal about your birthday and feel immature.

Maybe it’s your 10th birthday, and you really wanted a certain LEGO set, but you’re not sure that your family can afford it, and your older sibling wasn’t able to get a birthday present a few months ago.

Thanks to Alana Trimble, a longtime Ellipsis donor and volunteer, you get a gift bag on your birthday. You lift a handful of tissue paper out of the bag and see the present you wanted. Your heart soars as you realize your support network cares about you, especially on your special day — your birthday.

For 11 years, Alana has made monthly visits to Ellipsis to drop off birthday presents for the kids and teens we serve. Alana got the idea to begin donating birthday presents for Ellipsis youth while watching her young son open birthday gifts. 

“Many people donate during the holiday season, so kids receive gifts at that time,” Alana said. “I just thought, ‘What if you can’t make ends meet during the year?’ The effort shouldn’t always be up to the people who work at places like Ellipsis because they already do so much.”

Alana reached out to her friends about her idea to begin shopping for and delivering birthday gifts for Ellipsis youth, young kids served by West Des Moines Human Services and four more area providers. Each month, friends would help her shop for gifts and donate funds or presents so Alana could deliver them. Her neighborhood book club donates books to Alana instead of doing a holiday gift exchange so that she can share the books with kids Ellipsis serves.

“I saw a need that needed to be filled. If not me, who? I have the best friends and family who have helped make this happen.”


At first, Alana stocked common gift items like socks, candy, puzzles and board games. Now she works with Ellipsis and West Des Moines Human Services to understand exactly what kids and teens are interested in so she can customize their gifts. She always delivers them on time so our kids can open their birthday gifts on their birthday, not a few days before or after. 

“Someone told me recently that sometimes these are the only birthday gifts these kids have ever had. That just tugged at my heart strings,” she said. “Being a mom of four, I can’t imagine not being able to give them birthday gifts. It’s important for kids — even the 18-year-olds — to know that people care about them on their big day.”  

When the pandemic hit, Alana thought she’d have to end her efforts. Organizations weren’t taking donations because they wanted to ensure proper hygiene, and supply chain issues made it hard to get the presents. But she got the push she needed to continue.

“I thought this might be the end of the line. As I’m thinking this, my husband called and said, ‘I just had the weirdest business meeting. This person heard about your birthday donation and volunteer work,’” Alana recalled. “They wanted to donate money for the presents. It was a sign.”

Alana’s own birthday is May 20. Please help us thank her for making our kids feel so special.  Although we can’t ever fully repay her, carrying her volunteer and donation efforts forward may be just the ticket.

“I want to encourage volunteers. I’m just a normal person that had an idea. If you have an idea or the means to do something, try it. The worst that can happen is that it just doesn’t work out. At least you’ve tried.”