OTTAWA -- Turning eight years old usually means a party and presents, but Jayda Arnott from Greely, Ont. is celebrating her special day by dedicating it to others.

Jayda knows many people are struggling to make ends meet during this tough time, and she wanted to give back.

“I feel good in my heart,” says Jayda, “because I’m helping the less fortunate and they really need food during COVID.”

For her eighth birthday, Jayda decided that she was going to give up her gifts in exchange for collecting food and money for the Ottawa Food Bank.

“Presents, you play with for a minute and then you’re done with it,” says Jayda. “But if you get food or anything like that, you can use it for a long time.”

When her dad Jeff heard what she wanted to do for her birthday, he was fully on board, and proud.

“It's pretty incredible to have an eight-year-old who is willing to give up her presents to help other people,” says Jeff. “She’s always been a real caring, giving child. But this is really taking it to the next level.”

All day Sunday, friends, family and neighbours were dropping off food and money donations.

Jayna food drive donation
Friend Nico Zageria drops off a food donation for The Ottawa Food Bank.

“I think it's pretty great,” says friend Nico Zageria. “It’s a pretty fantastic setup. And all this is going to go to the food drive.”

Donations are needed now more than ever, says Rachael Wilson, CEO of the Ottawa Food Bank.

“Every month, 36 per cent of our clients are kids. So, having kids helping kids is just absolutely amazing,” says Wilson. “We know Ottawa has always been really generous, but to see kids going above and beyond and making an extra effort, especially around a birthday is amazing. So it’s really exciting for us.”

“We had a lot more than I thought,” says Jeff. “I mean the whole experience has turned out bigger than I think any of us thought.”

Jayda collected 15 boxes of food and $2,700 in cash donations, which will be delivered to the food bank on Monday.

Jayda, grateful for the response and turnout. An eighth birthday she will never forget.

“Thank you to everybody that donated,” says Jayda.