Traditionally, a "Sweet 16" party is a chance for a young girl to bask in the spotlight and for friends and family to recognize her passage into young adulthood.
By choosing to use the occasion to take the spotlight off of themselves and shine it on others, Taylor Lirakis and Alyssa Post showed they have already achieved a high level of maturity.
On Nov. 18, the longtime friends held a combined Sweet 16 party at Kitty's in North Reading. The date fell halfway between the girls' actual birthdays.
"We've always kind of done stuff together," said Taylor, a Tewksbury High sophomore, who will turn 16 on Dec. 27.
"We've been best friends since fourth grade. We're inseparable," added Alyssa, a Shawsheen Tech sophomore, who turned 16 on Oct. 8.
Around 130 people turned out for the party. And while there were plenty of well-wishes from family members and friends from both schools, Alyssa and Taylor made sure the event wasn't all about them.
Rather than presents, guests were asked to give cash, which Alyssa and Taylor then donated to the Meghan McCarthy Research Fund. McCarthy was a popular Tewksbury High scholar athlete, who passed away from a brain tumor in January, 2010. She was a member of the TMHS Class of 2011.
"We told people that we were going to be donating to charity but we didn't really tell them it was for Meghan," said Taylor. "Then they found out when they got to the party."
Originally, the girls were just going to donate the money that they got in their birthday cards. But then they decided to put out a donation jar at the party, also, for anyone who wanted to make an extra contribution.
In all, the girls raised and donated $525 to the fund.
Alyssa and Taylor didn't know Meghan McCarthy personally but she was a friend of their families and had played field hockey with their older sisters.
"I had seen her around at field hockey camps in the summer but I didn’t really know her," Alyssa.
In addition to gathering donations for the McCarthy Fund, the girls also used their party as a venue to raise awareness for the problem of teen suicide. Guests at the party were given yellow wristbands, embossed with the phrase, "It's OK to ask 4 help."
According to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, claiming the lives of thousands each year.
The Shawsheen Tech community had been rocked by the suicide of a student earlier this fall.