Taya Burgett is a little girl with a big heart and knows how to throw a party

Taya Burgett hosted a Soupmobile party for her 9th birthday. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Taya Burgett hosted a Soupmobile party for her ninth birthday. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Lakewood resident Taya Burgett’s ninth birthday was right around the corner, and she had so many options for how to celebrate: a sleepover, Six Flags, a themed party, even a fancy dinner at Reunion Tower. For weeks, she mulled it over.

One day she and her mom passed the SoupMobile on their way to breakfast in Deep Ellum. She remembered her second-grade soccer team had served at the SoupMobile headquarters, making sandwiches for the homeless. Aside from having a lot of fun with her friends, she also learned a lot that day from SoupMobile founder David Timothy, who took time to talk with her class about homelessness.

“And I was thinking how my birthday was coming up, and I just thought it would be a fun and nice thing to do if we had people come over and we made sandwiches for the SoupMobile,” Taya recalls.

Later she told her mom, Amanda Burgett, about her idea. Burgett wondered if Taya would change her mind, as 9-year-olds often do, but she didn’t.

For weeks, Taya talked about SoupMobile, constantly expanding on her original idea. Instead of presents, she asked her friends to bring cans of food to donate. She also hosted a lemonade stand to raise extra money for the SoupMobile, despite her mom being skeptical because their house isn’t anywhere near a busy street.

To everyone’s surprise, the lemonade stand was a smashing success. Because of the June 2012 hailstorm, the street was ringing with the sounds of hammers and electric tools. Roof repairmen flocked to the stand in droves. Taya could hardly keep up with the demand. When passersby heard the stand was a fundraiser for SoupMobile, they began donating larger and larger bills.

Taya struck up a conversation with one of the roofers, and when she told him the lemonade stand was for charity, a grin spread across his face and his eyes filled with tears.

“He told us that he knew SoupMobile and he knew David. He told us that he used to be homeless, and they helped him get that job,” Taya says.

Taya and her mother were touched by his story.

“So many people think homeless people just want a free ticket and they don’t want to work for it,” Burgett says, “but what the SoupMobile does is it gives them hope. They have a heart for these people, and they see them as people, not a project.”

Between the lemonade stand, donations from relatives, and a gift from the Tooth Fairy (Taya lost a tooth right before her birthday party), she was able to raise $133 for SoupMobile.

In addition, Taya, her family, 15 of her friends and a handful of adults made more than 500 sandwiches, and then delivered them to the SoupMobile headquarters in Deep Ellum. The group toured the grounds and saw the kitchen where SoupMobile staff and volunteers make meals for the homeless, which they then deliver via the SoupMobile van to locations throughout the city where homeless people tend to congregate.

Taya’s birthday was “way more than I expected it to be,” she says. “I expected it to be a breeze, but it ended up actually taking teamwork and stuff, which was really fun. Knowing that you’re helping people who needed it, made me feel good … knowing that you can make a difference.”

Little did she know, her birthday adventures weren’t over yet.

Not long after the SoupMobile party, Glenn Beck (yes, the Glenn Beck) caught wind of Taya’s act of kindness and asked her to be on his TV show. He was so inspired by her story that he donated $10,000 to SoupMobile. He also wanted to do something nice for the little girl with the big heart, so he threw her a “real” birthday party, using one of her discarded birthday party options — the fancy dinner at Reunion Tower.

One of Taya’s favorite things about the party was that Timothy, or “the Soup Man” as people call him, came to her party and even brought her a present. Timothy says he wanted to return the support Taya gave him. Her story shed light on SoupMobile’s mission and encouraged others to get involved, he says. Since Taya’s birthday party, several people have contacted him about donating or volunteering as a response to her story.

“People say, ‘How can this little girl make a difference?’ Well, her story has spread out among so many people,” he says. “So this little 9-year-old girl made a huge impact to spotlight the cause of homelessness. Her story was so powerful and so touching, that people who maybe never cared about the homeless before, now they do.”

Burgett says she, too, has been challenged by the turn of events. Though she doesn’t consider her family to be the “do-gooder” type, this has taught her to encourage both of her daughters to dream big and never be afraid to move those dreams forward.

“I don’t care if they grow up to make a lot of money,” Burgett says. “I don’t care if they’re famous, or any of that. But I do care that they’re nice people, that they love others and that they help others when they see a need. I say that all the time, but don’t always actively encourage it.

“Don’t squelch those little ideas.”

To learn more about SoupMobile and its mission to feed the homeless in Dallas, visit the website at soupmobile.org, like it at facebook.com/soupmobile or follow twitter.com/soupmobile.


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