COLUMBIA — At 2 p.m. Friday, Toni Lannert was on number 27 of 36 acts of kindness for each year she's been alive.
"We're currently at an animal shelter to deliver 45 pounds of dog food and pet every single animal," Lannert said.
Lannert, who owns a day care, is a mother of four and a Jefferson City native. After seeing a video three weeks ago of a man doing something similar, Lannert decided that was how she wanted to spend her birthday. She wasn't aware of The Birthday Project, a service organization that hopes to change the way people celebrate their birthdays.
The project was started in Florida by Robyn Bomar after she received an overwhelming response to her blog post about spending her 38th birthday committing 38 acts of kindness.
"This has been the best birthday ever, even with the rain," Lannert said.
Lannert's first act of kindness was allowing three of her children to skip school, along with her niece, nephew and daughter's friend. Her 10-year-old son, Jaden, said he loved it when she asked him what he thought of her birthday celebration.
The day began with Lannert and her little helpers paying for someone's dry-cleaning, returning shopping carts and giving gift cards to service people and strangers. Lannert also delivered cupcakes to school bus drivers, provided lunch for her son's teacher, bought doughnuts for the staff at West Elementary, brought flowers to a nursing home and performed many other acts.
"We paid for a lady's gas, and she ended up crying," Lannert said. "She even asked to take a picture with me, and the kids thought that was awesome."
Lannert planned some of her acts ahead of time to make sure she would be able to complete all 36. She also knew she wanted to do acts of kindness for her friends and family.
She cleaned her sister-in-law's house, who was having surgery Friday, delivered flowers to her sisters, gave thank-you cards to her parents, sent a letter to her grandma and brought a case of Mountain Dew to a close friend.
"It was kind of weird because they would have presents for me since it's my birthday, but I'm there giving them gifts," she said.
With each act of kindness, Lannert also left a little card to let the recipient know what she was doing.
"I didn't want want them to think I was crazy," Lannert said.
Some of the cards were generic, with the message, "Thank you for being a part of my 36 acts of kindness!" Those she gave family and friends were more personal.
Lannert updated her Facebook page all day with the acts of kindness she had accomplished, while friends wished her luck and a happy birthday.
The acts of kindness have given Lannert and her helpers experiences they might otherwise never have had. The fire department dressed Lannert up in some official gear when they delivered doughnuts and cards, while the police department handcuffed the kids and crammed all six of them into the back of a police car.
Lannert still had more acts to accomplish, including cleaning a park, finding and placing flowers at the oldest grave in a cemetery and doing her kids' chores.
The 36th and final recipient of the day's mission was reserved for Lannert, when she treated herself to dinner.
Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.