The Merlin’s Mission To Give Back

How Two Children Traded In Their Birthday Gifts for Donations To NCS

As Lesly Merlin watched her two children grow up and out of their clothing, books and toys, she knew she wanted to find a good home for these items. Her curiosity led her to find out about Northern Children’s Services after having a conversation with a woman, whose mother was once an orphan at the former Northern Home for Children. Merlins

Soon after hearing that story, Lesly went to her husband to discuss their option. Marc mentioned that his company, Deloitte Consulting, did a lot of volunteer work at Northern.  Together, they decided to continue to donate to Northern Children’s Services.

Lesly heard from her friends about a certain charitable life – one that allowed their children to understand the importance of giving back in a fun way.  After experiencing the excessiveness of birthdays and the amount of gifts that went unused, she and her friends decided to use these birthday parties as platform to give back. They gave their children two options.  The first option allowed them to invite three of their closest friends to a party and keep whatever birthday gifts they received.  The second option gave them the opportunity to invite their entire class to a birthday party, which would be used as a platform to give back to charity.

“It was such a wonderful opportunity to show them how one person can make a difference,” Lesly said.

Not knowing where to start, Lesly reached out to Northern to see how she could make this happen.   Northern provided a list, categorized for the teenage mothers and children living on campus, who are either phasing out of foster care or chronically homeless.  This list included standard items such as soap, toothbrushes, body lotions, shampoo, conditioner, band aids, baby bottles, baby wipes and so much more.

Both Sydney Merlin, who is now 9 ½ years old, and Eric Merlin, who is now 8 ½ years old, began this charitable mission on their 5th birthdays. They have been donating to Northern Children’s Services ever since.

“It makes them feel good that they are doing something and they are proud of what they are doing,” Lesly said.

Despite this, Sydney and Eric did sometimes ask their parents why, especially when they saw their friends receiving lots of gifts for their birthdays. To answer this, Lesly and Marc focused the discussion on the valuable lesson of what’s more important – spending time with friends or receiving a massive amount of gifts.  Spending time with friends continued to be victorious.

Although the idea was not original to Lesly, she mentioned that since she started this charitable mission, the idea has trickled down to more families in one way or another, giving parents the opportunity to teach the importance of charity to their children.

“It’s so important to know that even as an individual that you can make a difference in the world and it’s good for the kids to see that and embrace it,” Lesly said.

Think Globally, Act Locally 

As the years of giving back to Northern Children’s passed by, the Merlin’s saw a need and acted.  After hearing about the significant impact that reading and books had on children, they donated book shelves to the computer room in Northern Children’s Services Buck/Weinberg residential building.

When asked why they continued to choose Northern as the organization they gave back to, Lesly explained she and her husband really appreciated the large scope of services that Northern offered to the community and the focus of breaking the cycle of poverty and lack of education in low-income families.

“We kind of adopted Northern Children’s Services as a whole family,” Lesly said.

Knowing the young mothers were graduating from high school and seeing the impact of their donations was also a major reason the Merlin’s continued to donate. Just this past Saturday, the Merlin’s dropped off DVD players and DVD’s to add to the donated book shelves, noting that as the children got older, their focus shifted on donating the tools needed to help the young moms and children succeed academically.

In addition to their generous donations, Lesly Merlin had a few encouraging words to give to the young mothers living in the various residential program.

“Know that you are not alone.  Know that you are loved – that you are important and people care about you,” Lesly said, continuing with, “Keep fighting because people are behind you.”

Northern Children’s Services would like to extend their deepest and most sincere gratitude to the Merlin’s, who have dedicated a lifestyle to giving back and who have instilled such a beautiful message of charity in their family.  Thanks to the Merlin family, we can continue to focus on helping children and their families do better today, so that we all do better tomorrow.

To inquire about getting involved with Northern Children’s Services, please email


Northern Children's Services