Pets are a curious bunch, often getting into things they aren’t supposed to. Many times we’ll hear a strange noise coming from the other side of the room only to find the dog chewing on something they shouldn’t.
Usually, this isn’t anything too harmful: some human food from off the ground, socks stolen from under the bed, etc. Yet, occasionally, pets get into something expensive or hard to replace.
Such was the case with with Braden Baker when he saw his dog chew on his hearing aide.
Braden Baker, then 10 years old, learned all about hearing aide prices thanks to his curious dog.
Braden, from Fort Worth, Texas, learned a valuable lesson about not leaving his stuff on the floor when his dog (appropriately named Chewy) ate his hearing aides twice. This got him curious about how much the devices cost, so he asked his mother, Ashley Williams-Baker.
“Those are $3,500 to $6,000, up to $8,000,” she told WFAA 8 ABC. “For us, that’s out of pocket. Not everybody could afford that stuff.”
This struck a chord with Braden who has been wearing hearing aides since he was an infant.
“It was kind of like, ‘What are you going to do about this?'” he said.
Braden’s solution was to start a GoFundMe page to raise money to give hearing aides to people who couldn’t normally afford them. The campaign started in June 2017. Braden and his mother partnered with the Oticon Hearing Foundation with the modest goal of raising $1,000.
When Braden posted a video to Facebook, the response he got was staggering!
“We woke up the next morning and we already had like what, $400, $300?” Williams-Baker said in an interview with Oticon. “I had no idea what was gonna happen with it … it’s unbelievable.”
From there, the donations just kept coming in quicker and quicker. After five video updates from Braden, the campaign was able to raise over $11,000.
Braden and his mom were invited to the Oticon headquarters out in New Jersey to give a talk and accept a check. When they arrived there in August, the campaign’s amount had risen to over $15,000.
Williams-Baker says that the reason they raised so much was because of her Facebook friends.
“The more videos we made, the more people, the more it was just getting out there,” she told Oticon. “…It was pretty much the whole Fort Worth community and everybody I’d ever known.”
During that same interview, Braden mentioned how Ellen DeGeneres was one of his biggest inspirations.
He was later contacted by an Ellen show representative and asked to be on the program.
The answer was a definite “yes,” with Braden so shocked he fell out of his chair.
The show aired in October. By that point, Braden had raised over $23,000 for his campaign but it was about to be much more. Ellen surprised him by having him dig into a Cheerios box, pulling out $20,000 to be used toward the campaign.
The following month was Braden’s 11th birthday and he wanted to celebrate in the best way he could.
With all the money the boy had raised, he was able to buy 150 hearing aides. Yet instead of just giving them all out to people who lived nearby, he wanted to travel the world and give them to people in other countries.
His first stop was Guatemala where he planned to spend his birthday. It was an incredible trip where he got to see some people listen and dance to music for the first time.
“It was the most amazing trip ever!” Braden wrote in a GoFundMe update.
According to the Oticon Hearing Foundation, Braden is planning a trip in June to Zambia.
In the meantime, he’s continued to support hearing-impaired people the world over. In January, his campaign money reached 450 people in Mozambique.
“It’s just so crazy because I never thought all of this was going to happen,” Braden told WFAA 8 ABC. “I thought it might go for a week, get a couple of donations. I never thought it would get this far.”
So far, Braden has raised nearly $75,000 for his campaign but he doesn’t want to stop there. His goal is to get $100,000 or even beyond.
“Find your purpose and do something with it,” say the t-shirts he created with original artwork.
You don’t need a hearing aide to get that message. We hear you, buddy, loud and clear!