By Garianne Dashiell, former consultant, ScholarShare529 College Savings Program

November 25, 2020

A commemorative Scarlett O’Hara edition Barbie®, the screeching animatronic gorilla from Sharper Image and a 34-volume edition of Encyclopædia Britannica are among the more memorable gifts my children received in their formative years. Now that they are grown, I am spared the heartbreak of calculating the expense of these gifts and wondering what a similar contribution into a 529 account might one day yield. A twin tragedy was the realization that none of these items seemed to hit the mark as effectively as empty washer/dryer delivery boxes, circa 2005. 

As we come to terms with our own versions of Thanksgiving 2020, when holiday wish lists are more likely to be shared via Zoom or text than in the lap of a doting grandparent, there remains a very specific anxiety experienced by parents everywhere. Whether we are adjusting to life in smaller spaces or simply looking to coax our youths away from rampant consumerism, we have the opportunity to consider alternatives to traditional giving. Alternatives that may also address the void of connection and unity so many of us have craved in this unusual time.

I am not the first to associate the Giving Tuesday movement with Maya Angelou’s brilliant reflection, “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver,” and who celebrate what began as a modest partnership between the United Nations Foundation and New York City’s 92nd Street Y less than a decade ago. This movement took hold as an alternative to the frenzy of Black Friday/Cyber Monday by encouraging celebration of community through charitable acts and generosity. The growth of giving campaigns throughout the US and in over 145 countries hints at universal desire to build equity and to celebrate the power of generosity in a time when connection and unity have felt elusive.

Aside from providing free storage as they travel through young adulthood, I no longer have much skin in the game of gifts made to my children. Still, I am heartened by the shift in focus brought about by Giving Tuesday, which provides voice to youths and the issues they care most about. I’m reminded of an image from my driveway many years ago when, in the spirit of staving off boredom an upside-down box marked WASHER repeatedly banged into an upside-down box marked DRYER, tiny girl sneakers stumbled beneath each. Those delighted squeals still echo in this mom’s heart.

I will always cringe when I consider well-intentioned gifts destined for landfills, but I cling to the hope that as millions of families change the way we celebrate Thanksgiving, we also consider changing the way we view the gifts we bring to each other and to our communities. The Giving Tuesday movement is an encouraging indicator of our power to do both.

For more information about #GivingTuesday, please visit:

Garianne Dashiell is a former consultant for the ScholarShare529 College Savings Program. She currently coordinates the Plan’s Parent Advisory Council.