Koko’s Birthday — Lisa’s View

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This year Koko turned 43; she is one year younger than me. I have never experienced Koko’s birthday first hand until this year. I had the unique experience of helping Penny plan for it because I am her new personal executive assistant. A lot of work and preparations go into Koko’s Birthday party.

To start, a caregiver picks a theme: Andrea Apodaca picked the theme of flowers for this year. The caregivers worked really hard to maintain the idea of sustainable living. They got creative by making both recycled plastic water bottles and paper into flowers. Ndume’s room got decorated too, but for his theme they used the 4th of July.

Penny and I created the menu for Koko and Ndume. We tried to make it exciting while keeping it healthy, using vegan ingredients, which can make it quite challenging (for example, we gave Ndume a vegetarian hot dog that he rejected immediately, which was quite entertaining). The menu consisted of peach blueberry crisp, carrot raisin salad, cabbage salad, ambrosia, three-bean salad, and a vegan cake from Black China bakery in Santa Cruz.

<img src="http://www.koko.org/sites/default/files/root/images/project_koko/blog/blog_2014-07-10_salads_IMG_5274.jpg" width="600" height="237" title="Left: Fruit Salad, Ambrosia, and Strawberry Salad;
Right: Carrot Salad, Red Cabbage Salad and 3-Bean Salad” class=”caption” alt=”” />

I had the honor of personally wrapping the presents that came in the mail from Koko’s friends, so that they would all be ready by the big day. Koko received gifts from all over the country and all were very thoughtful. In particular, my gift to Koko was a “Little Cutesies” baby doll, to which Koko immediately became attached.

We also gave special gifts and enrichment to Ndume on Koko’s birthday so that he would feel special too. Knowing that Ndume loves popcorn, Andrea put movie-style popcorn containers filled with plain popcorn throughout the large yard for him to enjoy, and he really got into it (see photo, left).

Both Koko and Ndume loved all (or at least most) of the birthday menu, decorations, and presents. When it came to the Happy Birthday cake ceremony, Koko blew out her 3 candles one at a time, and I had the feeling her wishes were important.

I now truly understand how much Koko and Ndume are loved by so many people, and why they are so endearing to us. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me — but one I hope to be a part of for years to come.


Blog by Lisa Holliday, Personal Assistant to Dr. Penny Patterson

To see more photos and videos of Koko’s birthday, visit Koko’s Birthday pages.

To send a birthday message to Koko, click here.

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