Bonobo Birthday Party

Like many five-year-olds, Diana Hackbarth knew exactly what she wanted for her birthday. The difference? Her birthday wish was to help bonobos! “They’re cute,” Diana says, “and they’re endangered.” Diana and her mom, Hazel Hackbarth, decided that the best way to celebrate Diana’s big day was with a bonobo birthday party. They invited 14 of Diana’s closest friends, played bonobo-themed games, gave away bonobo-themed favors, and Diana requested that, in lieu of gifts, guests make donations to the Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI).

Birthday girl Diana (right) with her sister and her "bonobo building"; Photo Credit: Hazel HackbarthHow does a five-year-old become such a passionate conservationist? Good habits start at home. Her mother Hazel has been interested in bonobos since studying anthropology at Harvard University. Though she did not ultimately pursue anthropology as a career, opting instead to become a professional musician, she has remained committed to the cause of primate conservation. She is a regular supporter of BCI, and she has taught both her daughters the importance of protecting our closest relatives. Hazel and Diana were discussing party themes when they received a letter from BCI, containing colorful bonobo postcards. Diana loved the bonobo pictures, and so they both decided that a bonobo birthday party was a great idea. Hazel reports, “She was also excited to teach her friends, because almost nobody has heard of bonobos.”

Playing "pin the mouth on the bonobo"; Photo Credit: Hazel HackbarthThe party itself was, according to Hazel, “super low-tech.” She found bonobo magnets online to distribute as favors, as well as some bonobo outlines for the kids to color. Guests were given informational handouts about bonobos, so that the learning could continue even when the party ended. The highlight of the party was a game similar to “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” called “Pin the Mouth on the Bonobo.” Hazel drew a simple bonobo picture and several pairs of lips. “I am no artist,” Hazel laughs, “but it worked. Everyone could tell what it was.” When asked if she would recommend this type of party for others, Hazel replies, “It didn’t take a lot of money and it didn’t take too much planning and didn’t take a lot of work, but it still worked to teach people about looking into the bigger world and seeing where they can help. It was a successful and memorable birthday for her and her friends.”

Diana’s birthday wish was to “put bonobos out of danger.” Caring people like the Hackbarths are helping that wish come true. If you’d like to follow Diana’s example and plan your own party, you can find advice and materials in our fundraising kit (PDF, 6.7MB). You can also help Diana’s wish come true by making a contribution. We’re so grateful that Diana chose to make her “happy birthday” a happy day for bonobos, too!

Diana's artwork from her Bonobo Birthday Party