AUBURN — A few years ago, Brayden Bashaw found himself in possession of $100 right around Christmastime.
That’s a fun set of circumstances for most boys, but this 12-year-old did something unusual. He took his $100, bought various items for cats and dogs, and took the goods to the Society for the Protection of Animals to be distributed.
Brayden was just doing his part to help. And now he’s turned that spirit of giving into an ongoing fundraiser aimed at raising thousands of dollars for sick children.
“My parents always wanted me to give something back at Christmastime,” Brayden said Thursday night, as he manned a table at Gritty McDuff’s. “And I really want to do something to help kids. I love Christmas, and I know that there are some people who are having hard times.”
For the past three years, rather than celebrate his birthday, Brayden has organized projects to raise money to buy gifts for children in need.
Among his efforts, Brayden began making Christmas tree ornaments and selling them to raise money. He called his project Ornaments for Hope, and by the time the holiday rolled around, he had raised $2,000 through good old-fashioned hard work.
“He sold them all over the place,” said his grandmother, Doris Cuomo.
With all that money in hand, Brayden bought $2,000 worth of toys, which he delivered to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.
His generosity was not fleeting, nor was it a shock to those who know him best.
“This is all him,” said his father, Travis. “It’s not something we made him do. He’s very smart, very well-rounded. He’s kind, compassionate and polite. Overall, just a very good kid.”
And absolutely dedicated, as it turns out. This year, Brayden is setting out to raise $5,000 for children. He’s still selling his pine-cone ornaments and snowman Christmas balls, but he’s also been hitting the pavement in an effort to gain sponsors at businesses.
Brayden crafted his pitch into a letter and then, with his dad driving, he began making the rounds, scheduling face-to-face meetings with business leaders.
“What a great kid,” said Mark Pilot, a Realtor with the Masiello Group. “To see a youth of today going the extra mile on his own accord, it’s impressive. I think it’s absolutely incredible and it’s inspiring.”
At Gritty’s on Thursday night, in his red sneakers, Santa hat and Christmas-themed coat, Brayden looked like any other kid around the holidays. He sat at a table, selling ornaments and raffle tickets to patrons who formed a line stretching across the dining area and out the door.
“That’s Brayden,” said his mother, Stacey. “He really applies himself. When he does something, he’s going to do it until it’s finished. He’s like that with everything, including school work.”
“Very dedicated,” said Brayden’s grandmother. “He’s worked really hard. He’s had to pass up a lot of things, like parties, to keep doing this. He’s only 12 years old, but he’s done this basically on his own.”
Some of the money Brayden raises this year will go toward Brady Buggies, specialized trailers for sick children who need to haul around IV poles in order to be mobile. The buggies sell for $1,000 each. The remainder of the money will be spent on gifts for the children at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.
At Gritty’s, closing in on his $5,000 goal, Brayden shrugged off the accolades flung in his direction.
“I’ve always loved Christmas,” he said. “I liked to make things and I want to give something back.”