Peterson Family Photo

Back left to right Chachita Peterson, Maria Elena Peterson front left to right: Mercedes “Meche” Enriqueta and Lily Elena gathered at the Arizona Inn to talk about the birthday celebration on Sept. 7 that they hope will bring in 10,000 diapers for their favorite charity – the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.


Tucsonan 10-year-old’s birthday party will benefit the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona

Forget Justin Bieber backpacks or trendy clothes, what Lily Elena wants for her 10th birthday is diapers, lots of diapers, in fact she hopes she will get 1,000 diapers for every year of her life. On Sept. 7th Chachita Peterson, Lily’s grandmother, will host a birthday extravaganza for Lily and the only gift they would like guests to bring is boxes of diapers that can be donated to the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.

“People don’t really think about what a hardship buying diapers can be; even new parents aren’t prepared for the costs many times,” said Chachita Peterson.

Philanthropy runs in Lily’s veins; she is the fourth generation of women who make giving back a part of their lives. Peterson said that it all started with her mother, Meches Faitel, who prepared baskets of food and gifts to give away at holidays. Lily’s mother Maria Elena Peterson followed in her grandmother’s and mother’s traditions by providing food for her impoverished students when she taught in Winslow, AZ. Lily’s older sister, Mercedes “Meche” Enriqueta, 15, set the tone five years ago when she hosted a diaper drive for her 10th birthday. More than 4,000 diapers were donated as a result.

“Children get so many gifts at their birthdays,” said Maria Elena Peterson. “They play with them for a while and then forget about them. But an opportunity to give back their community will stick with them forever.” Mercedes added that she doesn’t really remember her party but she remembers taking all the diapers to the Diaper Bank afterward.

Given what’s planned for her special day, it’s hard to imagine that Lily will ever forget Sept. 7, 2013.  In addition to the usual birthday fare, there will be a magician and the Old Pueblo Touring Association will be on hand with the goal of stuffing  a 1916 Pierce Arrow and 1911 Stoddard Dayton with diapers.

In addition to collecting the much needed item, Lily’s birthday will also be the kickoff event for a week of activities geared to raise awareness about the need for diapers and incontinence supplies in the community. From Sept. 1 through Sept. 14th Jim Click Automotive will be collecting diapers at all of its sites in Pima County.

Arizona has joined with many other states that have declared Sept. 8 through the 14th Diaper Need Awareness Week. Aug. 19, Governor Janice K. Brewer issued the state’s proclamation. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild  issued his proclamation for the City of Tucson earlier this month.

The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, which was the first diaper bank in the United States, will join with the more than 200 diaper banks across the nation in promoting Diaper Need Awareness Week. Here in Tucson and across the U.S. attention will be brought to the hardships many families with babies, seniors and disabled face getting adequate supplies of diapers or incontinence supplies. Lack of access to these supplies creates a myriad of health and emotional issues, including shame, isolation and increased risk of infection.

“There’s nothing worse than hearing your baby cry and knowing you can’t give them what they need. We rely on the goodwill of people like Lily and her family to help us make Tucson a better place for our most vulnerable citizens,” according to Bonnie Demorotski, board president of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona.

Throughout the nation and here in Tucson people are suffering silently from this very real life issue. In 2012, the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona received requests for more than 1.5 million diapers for infants, seniors and the disabled and was only able to collect and distribute more than 500,000. While the Diaper Bank meets an immediate need, it also addresses the longer term issues through its partnership with more than 40 government and charitable organizations.

“Diapers are distributed through a network of partner agencies who provide additional services, like job assistance, temporary shelter and more,” Demorotski said.