11-year-old boy raises over $67,000 to give the ‘gift of hearing’ in Guatemala

By Haley Harrison

It all started with a one-minute YouTube video on his mother’s Facebook and a goal to raise $1,000 on a GoFundMe page.

By the time Braden Baker and his Hearing Aid Awareness Campaign had their spotlight on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in October, the page was at a little over $23,000. He is now in Guatemala on a mission trip with the Oticon Hearing Foundation after raising over $67,000 to help give the ‘gift of hearing.’

Braden, a fifth grader at Fort Worth Country Day, was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. He is about 60 percent deaf and has been wearing hearing aids since he was three months old.

The Baker’s family dog, Chewy, ate Braden’s hearing aids not once, but twice. (Photo by Haley Harrison)

His campaign began after his dog, who is appropriately named Chewy, ate his hearing aids for a second time this past June. Braden’s Mother, Ashley Baker, said she was upset and told her son that he was lucky their family could afford another pair. Braden’s pair of hearing aids are worth $4,000 and insurance doesn’t cover the cost, she said.

Braden immediately felt compelled to do something for the people who were unable to afford their own hearing aids. His Hearing Aid Awareness Campaign efforts picked up fast.

“We had this idea [to raise money on a GoFundMe page] in about 15 seconds and all of a sudden he was making a video,” his mother said.

The next thing they knew Braden was raising thousands of dollars, chosen as hero of the month on GoFundMe.com and asked to be on The Ellen Show. But this journey has never been about him, it has been about helping others.

Braden said in his first video that he wanted to raise money, travel the world and provide hearing aids for those who cannot afford them. He is now doing all of these things through a partnership with the Oticon Hearing Foundation.

Oticon supports humanitarian endeavors that unite hearing care professionals to needy communities worldwide. The goals of Braden’s campaign and the foundation are parallel, which makes them an ideal team. All of the money Braden has raised has gone directly to Oticon.

“The reason we love Oticon so much is because they purely donate instruments. The hearing aid, the tubing, the molds,” Ashley Baker said.

His mother added that the process isn’t as easy as buying the hearing aids and passing them out. Audiologists have to be on site with equipment to fit the hearing device and adjust it accordingly to peoples’ loss.

Dr. Kamal Elliot is the Oticon audiologist that has taken interest in Braden’s campaign. She planned a mission trip, funded by Braden, to Guatemala this week and invited the Baker family to come. Braden said that they were able to bring about 200 hearing aids with the money he raised.

The Bakers and the Oticon doctors arrived in Guatemala City on Monday. The team then drove three hours to a village called Panajachel. This is where they will spend their time fitting local Guatemalans for hearing devices.

Elliot and Braden’s mother have both been eager for him to see the impact he is going to make on this hearing loss community. Ashley Baker said that she believes the real roots of the message will sprout for Braden while they are in Guatemala.

Braden said that he has enjoyed this experience and has been overwhelmed with how kind people are. He has received donations and encouraging messages from people all over the world, including a donation and video from a New Zealand rugby team.

“There have been parents with little kids that have donated in honor of their baby’s first pair of hearing aids.” Ashley Baker said. “Even people donating five dollars. It is amazing. All of it matters and all of it counts.”

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    Braden has continued to make YouTube videos as a way to spread the word and give thanks to all who have been a part of his campaign. He has also created his own YouTube account, TheRandomDude Baker, where he has posted recent video blogs.

    Ashley Baker said she hopes the big takeaway for the Fort Worth Community is that everyone finds and becomes a part of one of the thousands of local charities or non-profits.

    To view Braden’s campaign and donate, please click here.

    Braden has received hundreds of emails and letters from people around the world. (Photo Courtesy of Ashley Baker)