Every year Memphis Roetter's parents ask him if he would like to get presents for his birthday. Every year Memphis tells them he would rather give than receive.
Cake? Check. Candles? Naturally. Bouncy House? Of course. Presents? Uh, no.
Memphis Roetter's birthday party has all the trappings a 9-year-old comes to expect. Except one.
Memphis told his parents, Juli and Chuck, that this year he didn't want presents for his birthday. Instead, he wanted donations to the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa.
That, in and of itself, is laudable for such a young boy. It's downright amazing when you realize Memphis had made that same choice every year for the past five years, reaching his goal of 9,999 meals donated to the food bank on the evening before his birthday party.
"I hope I inspire other people," Memphis says.
Memphis' giving tradition began when he was just 3 years old. His parents felt that Memphis had all the toys he needed, so they asked that in lieu of gifts, people make a donation to a charity.
The following year, though, Julie and Chuck left it up to Memphis to decide if he wanted gifts. He chose giving.
That year, the Roetters' raised $900 and donated it to the city of Cotati to help save that town's Children's Day Parade, a yearly event that budget cuts had threatened to cancel. Memphis got to ride on a float in the parade that year, tossing out candy to other children.
The following year, Memphis chose the Redwood Empire Food Bank as his charity, just has he has done every year since. Each year he also raises the bar for his giving. Each year he has surpassed that goal.
"Sometimes by one thousand (meals)," Memphis says. "Once by three thousand."
This year, in honor of his 9th birthday, Memphis set a goal of raising 9,999 meals for the food bank.
Memphis dedicated four hours every Saturday since the beginning of the year to standing outside a Santa Rosa supermarket asking for donations. Those gifts, along with other solicited through a website and Facebook page, enabled Memphis, once again, to surpass his goal.