When celebrating a birthday, most pre-school children have a party with family and friends, eat cake and ice cream and receive lots of gifts. But recently, Highland Park Falcons Mighty Mite, Lanna Sirijintakarn, celebrated her 5th birthday in another way…not by receiving, but by giving back.
Lanna still had a fun party at the ice skating rink with family, friends, pizza and cake, but partygoers were asked to forego the gifts for a donation to the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey (CBSH) team instead.
On Saturday, November 12th Lanna attended a CBSH team practice and presented their team captain, Tim Adams, with an envelope of checks, totaling $650.
So what was the motivation behind Lanna’s unconventional birthday celebration?
“Lanna is small for her age, and on top of that, she is already dealing with stereotypes that surround being a girl and Asian,” said Ed Sirijintakarn. “With that in mind, as well as her growing passion for hockey, we wanted to come up with a teaching point for her 5th year…that absolutely anybody can play hockey regardless of size, sex, and race, physical or mental disability.”
Lanna has a friend in her Pre-K class who has Down Syndrome. “We asked Lanna if instead of receiving gifts, if it was okay for her friends to donate money to CBSH to give kids like her friend the opportunity to play hockey,” said her father. “She was very excited with the idea and readily agreed.”
When Lanna was 3½, she was bitten by the hockey bug while watching a Chicago Blackhawks game. She told her parents that she wanted to learn “how to skate”.
“We brought Lanna to an ice rink in Skokie thinking she meant figure skating, but instead she pointed over to the kids that were playing ice hockey,” said her mother, Utchavadee Nakpresha.
After learning basic skating with her dad and taking lessons at Heartland Ice Arena, Lanna began skating with the Highland Park Falcons and her passion for the game really grew. Her excitement for the sport has inspired her dad to sign up for adult learn-to-play classes. Her mom is also learning how to ice skate and the family hopes that Lanna’s 1 year old brother will take to the ice too.
Given the Sirijintakarn family’s affection for the sport of ice hockey and Lanna’s friendship with a classmate with Down Syndrome, having the Chicago Blackhawks Special Hockey team be the recipients of Lanna’s birthday gift was a perfect fit.
Lanna’s parents noted, “this was also made possible in part thanks to the educational program offered at Lanna’s school, Children’s Care and Development Center in Lincolnwood which includes special needs children in the classroom. By teaching kids to socialize and empathize with other kids with physical and mental disabilities, they learn that those children can also accomplish great things.”
“Our entire family is looking forward to continually finding ways to contribute to CBSH while also spreading the message that anybody can play ice hockey,” said Ed Sirijintakarn, who was also quick to give much credit and thanks to Lanna’s Pre-K class at Children’s Care and Development Center and her friends in the Thai community for their generosity on Lanna’s behalf.
More about Lanna
Q: What do you enjoy when you are not playing hockey?
Lanna: I like to draw pictures of my friends and family.
Dad: She also enjoys reading, playing board games, having friends over, and running around at the park.
Q: What are your hobbies?
Dad: She has been playing violin for about 2 years and actually performed in her first solo concert right after we went to the CBSH practice to present them with the donation. She also participates in a Hip Hop Dance program.
Q: Do you play any other sports?
Lanna: Gymnastics, tennis, and lacrosse.
Dad: She also takes swimming lessons every week and likes to snowboard during the wintertime.
Q: What jersey number do you wear? Any special reason you picked that number?
Lanna: I wear #9 and play for the Falcons (Highland Park’s Mighty Mites house program.)
Mom: The #9 was randomly given to her, but coincidentally also honors, respects and represents the Thai people’s love for the 9th King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who recently passed away. It is a wonderful number for her to wear!
Dad: Her favorite number is #88 though. I bet you know why!
Food: steak, fish and blueberries
Toys: Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and ‘surprise eggs’
TV Show: “Paw Patrol”
Song: “So What” by P!nk
Store: The Star Store (Toys-R-Us)
Book: “Green Eggs and Ham” or “Dance of the Violin”