BIRTHDAY WISH IN GRANDMA'S MEMORY.
Brooke Sosa looked around her bedroom and saw everything she needed. A computer, telephone, TV, closet filled with clothes, and all the little trinkets a teenage girl could want.
She really didn't need anything for her 17th birthday, she told her mother, Susan. But there was something she wanted.
``When she told me what it was, I wasn't surprised - I was just very moved and proud,'' Susan said. ``I think kids will do good things when given the opportunity - when it comes unsolicited and from the heart.''
What Brooke wanted at her 17th birthday party instead of gifts was to honor her grandmother's memory by having her family and friends make a donation in her grandma's name to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
``When I looked around and realized I already had everything I needed - more than I needed - I knew it was because of my mom and my grandma and grandpa,'' Brooke said. ``This is a way of giving a little back.''
Unsolicited and from the heart.
Audrey Greenberg was 74 when she died last May from primary progressive MS. For the previous 10 years, his wife was often in a lot of pain, said Brooke's grandfather, Morrie Greenberg.
``She never complained, never wanted to let Brooke see her without a smile on her face. They were so close. When my daughter told me what Brooke wanted to do, I became pretty emotional. My wife would have been so proud of her.''
More than 30 people showed up without gifts Saturday for Brooke's 17th birthday party. Most of them were friends from Grant High School, where Brooke is an editor on the school newspaper and a member of the Human Rights Club.
It's a group of kids that meets once a week to talk about world issues like child labor in El Salvador and the civil war in the Sudan. Issues many kids don't know about. The Human Rights Club tries to bring them to light on the campus.
``When I told my friends what I wanted for my 17th birthday, many of them didn't know what MS was,'' Brooke said.
They were about to learn from her how it attacks the nervous system, and slowly progresses to debilitate and even steal from you someone you love.
Her friends understood. At Brooke's birthday party Saturday, every guest received a party favor of a red wristband to wear and raise awareness of MS.
And the Southern California chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society became richer by $500, with promises of more birthday money on the way.
``A lot of time people underestimate the power of kids and teens to be generous, but some of our top fund-raisers are kids,'' said Marni Deckter, the local MS chapter's director of communications.
``Age doesn't matter when it comes to generosity.''
Susan Sosa agrees. ``Most of the time, kids have to think hard about what they need or want for their birthdays because they're getting most it throughout the year,'' she says.
If you're lucky, one day your teenager looks around and realizes he or she has everything they need - maybe even more than they need.
Given the opportunity, they may decide to do something good - something that moves you and makes you proud.
Something unsolicited and from the heart.
Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749
Brooke Sosa asked for donations to the Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of her late grandmother in lieu of presents for her 17th birthday.
John Lazar/Staff Photographer