Braden Baker never imagined that his hearing condition would lead him to making an impact in the lives of so many others like him.
The 10-year-old was just an infant when doctors learned that he has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss — which can worsen over time. In the years that followed, Braden grew up wearing a pair of hearing aids, and learned a valuable lesson about the devices when the family’s beloved dog, Chewy, destroyed them — twice.
“We had the responsibility talk and the value of money talk, because hearing aids are not covered by insurance. Gratefully we could afford to get some,” Braden’s mom, Ashley Baker, tells PEOPLE. “His hearing aids run anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000. We were like, ‘Braden, you’ve got to be more responsible.’ ”
The importance of the “money talk” was not lost on the fifth grader, though. Soon, Braden began thinking about the hearing impaired children who are unable to afford the costly devices. So, he came up with an idea.
“I was like, ‘How could I give back,’ you know?” Braden recalls. “So, I told my mom about GoFundMe and we started a GoFundMe page!” Ashley, 45, adds that Braden loves to watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show and was inspired by the generous host to help those in need.
The family launched the GoFundMe page in June, Ashley says. And Braden even uses his mother’s Facebook page to promote the fundraiser with videos. Still, the family was surprised when the fundraiser quickly saw hundreds of dollars in donations over night. Since then, Braden has raised more than $15,000 for his cause.
“We were overwhelmed. I think Braden was freaking out. Braden was just inspired to keep going!” Ashley says. “He was like, ‘I think that means I need to do another video!’ It was humbling and his need — and want — to do more was amazing.”
The family, who hail from Fort Worth, Texas, quickly teamed up with the Oticon Hearing Foundation, to which they donated the money last month. Ashley praised Pennsylvania Dr. Kamal Elliot, who will use the money during her next mission trip to provide hearing aids to children from families who can’t afford them.
So touched by Braden’s act, Dr. Elliot plans to take the boy on her next trip, calling the project Braden’s Mission, Baker tells PEOPLE. She says that, since starting the campaign, other children with hearing conditions have reached out to them, sending photos of their hearing aids.
“I think Braden has been so proud of this,” the mom of two says. “He came in from the first day of school telling me how people had seen and read his stories and that it makes him feel important and I love that. .. I’ve seen a different pride in his eyes, for sure.”
Ashley says that Braden has no plans of slowing down any time soon. She and Braden want to continue fundraising and act as a liaison for low-income families and the foundation. Along with kudos from the foundation and several others, Braden has landed an extra special accolade: he has been named the GoFundMe Hero of August.
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“I was kind of overwhelmed,” Braden says of his reaction to the news. “It’s just that, there’s so many [fundraisers] with a lot of money and I just couldn’t believe that I was the one that was picked!”
Ashley recalls a more theatric reaction from the boy.
“He fell on the floor! He’s dramatic like that,” she tells PEOPLE of her son. “It was kind of funny. He was like, ‘Really? Does that mean we’ll raise more money?’ “