The Birthday Project

What derived in 2019, during the holiday season when Lucas Cook and his sisters made stockings for the Ruth Kelley Ummis House (RKUH), a program that provides housing and intensive case management to women and children had Cook dwelling on how the women and their children are spending their Birthdays.

“Over the summer it kind of dawned on me, I wonder what they are doing for their birthdays,” said Cook.

Cook, a 17-year-old senior from Lynnfield High School and a hockey player for the Captain team wears the number 17 in each one of his sports jerseys in honor of his uncle Michael who wore the number 17 while he played Hockey and Football at the high school and college level.

Cook’s uncle, passed away from an accidental overdose just five years ago, in his honor, the Think of Michael Foundation was born, with the purpose to provide scholarships in sober homes, raise awareness, eradicate stigmas, and support individuals affected by substance abuse.

“I’ve heard so many great things about him during sports, so I thought I could play the same way he did and dedicate every game to him,” said Cook.

Humble and bashful, with no intentions for accolades Cook’s monthly trip to RKUH to deliver birthday bags that includes everything for children and women to celebrate their birthdays, from cake mixes, party favors, paper goods, steamers, and books. Cook understands what brought him to RKUH to deliver the birthday bags was number 17.

“As I stood in the quiet Roxbury neighborhood, I realized that number 17 brought me there. When playing sports and going about my life, this grit, determination, passion, and commitment is with me,” said Cook.

“Number 17 has led me on my journey of self-discovery and path to a greater understanding of humanity. Although I will take off my sports jersey in the spring and perhaps never wear the number again, I am confident that what it embodies will remain with me,” he added.

A philanthropist at a young age, Cook’s way of caring and helping others derived from his family, “It’s in the genes, I guess. But Lucas’s hockey coach, who happened to be a childhood friend of Michael’s has taught his team to always be humble. So, it is important to highlight that Lucas is one small part of the incredible team who supports the Ruth Kelley Ummi House and couldn’t do any of it without the support of the community. It’s amazing how generous people were with their donations of everything needed to make the birthdays so special,” said Stacey Cook, Cook’s mother.

For Cook, The Birthday Project is rewarding, a way for him to give back to the community. “I see it on their faces, they look happy, and it just feels good doing good,” he said.

“The people in these recovery homes, they’re trying to better themselves and I feel like if I can just raise awareness to this issue, inspire others to do the same thing I’m doing. Then overall, it’s just going to help the issue better itself,” added cook.