ELLERBE – Birthday celebrations are annual events that spotlight the person turning one year older. But for one local seventh grader, whose tiny frame holds such a large and caring heart, her birthday is about helping people who need more than she does.
Tatum Rhyne, who is set to start classes at Ellerbe Middle School Monday, doesn’t celebrate her birthday like most of her peers. With her twelfth birthday just around the corner on August 31, she’s not accepting cards and gifts for herself; instead Rhyne will host her seventh annual “donation birthday party”, where she collects donations for various organizations.
An active young adult, Rhyne is just like most other middle school students. She enjoys reading and is a member of the EMS cheer team. She loves playing video games and can often be found jumping on her trampoline, or participating in events at Fellowship Baptist Church. But what sets her apart is her selflessness and her desire to help those less fortunate.
“Right before I turned six, my mama asked me what I wanted for my birthday,” Rhyne said. “I told her I had everything I needed, and that I might give something to someone who needs it.”
While riding in the car with her mother, Jennifer Rhyne, shortly before her sixth birthday, Rhyne spotted a homeless person and didn’t understand why he was living in the streets. Her mother explained to her that some people “aren’t as fortunate” to be able to have a home to live in, and thus was the beginning of Rhyne’s passion to help all of those less fortunate than her.
“And that’s literally how all of this started,” Jennifer Rhyne said. “Tatum has such a beautiful heart and she is always wanting to help other people. It’s a wonderful thing.”
This year, Rhyne has organized a LuLa Roe party with consultant Ashley G. Hill and other members of the Southern Grace LuLa Roe team. With the clothing brand popping up as the new fashion trend, Rhyne saw it as a great way to raise a lot of money.
The money from this year’s fundraiser will benefit the Emmanuel Orphanage Home in Nakuru, Kenya. Designated as a refuge for orphaned children who live impoverished in the streets, the home’s director, Ismeal Wagango, has spoken at Rhyne’s church about the need to raise funds to provide better facilities. As this is the first international organization Rhyne is assisting, she is excited to be able to help kids her own age.
The Emmanuel Orphanage Home is in the process of building new facilities to house its children. A street ministry, the home hopes to one day be a fully self-sustaining operation, where children can grow their own crops, learn vocational skills and have a safe, nurturing place to grow up.
As an effort to help with Rhyne’s fundraiser, a certain percentage of each LuLa Roe item sold will go to benefitting her charity. In addition, Southern Grace LuLa Roe will also match the total amount of whatever funds are raised.
“I’ve done missionary work in Honduras, so I understand Tatum’s desire to help people,” Hill said. “LuLa Roe reached out to her this year to see how we could help, and I’m glad we are involved.”
Rhyne has helped local organizations in the past, including Toys for Tots, North Carolina Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House and St. Jude’s Hospital.
“The reason why I do this,” Rhyne said, “is because I want to help make everyone happy. Giving back to the community and other people in need is so awesome. Life isn’t all about presents for yourself.”
The LuLa Roe fundraiser, which is open to the public, will take place Saturday, August 26, at Bold Moves Dance Company in Rockingham from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hundreds of LuLa Roe items will be on site for immediate purchasing. Those unable to attend, and are interested in helping Rhyne, can send donations to Fellowship Baptist Church at PO Box 201, Ellerbe NC 28338.