Last year, I had a mother named Carrie call the Police Department and talk with me about her son Braden. She told me that Braden has Asperger and really struggles socially. She told me that she has invited kids to Braden’s birthday in the past and no kids show up. This broke my heart and really wanted to see his birthday be a special one. With the help of other Officers and Fireman, we showed up in force to really make his day special.
Little did any of us know this would turn into a national story like it has. People magazine did a story on it, several national media outlets as well as CNN. Take a look at Bradens story:
Yesterday, I attended his birthday party and got to see a ball field full of kids who have rallied behind Braden to make this years party awesome. I am so proud of Braden and his love of life and determination. Braden asked that all of the kids that attend his party bring something for our Police officers. We filled a Police SUV with all kinds of snacks and drinks for our Officers. I am so proud that a little boy like Braden has such a huge heart for people. I am very proud of you Braden!
His mother posted this on Facebook and I wanted to share it with you… “I have been reflecting on Bradens birthday yesterday and have come to realize what an awesome community we live in. Last year we only had 2 boys planning on attending Bradens party so our Pekin police, fire, and mayor stepped up to make it great which included going to the homes of 2 more boys and personally inviting them. Since then several of the officers have kept in touch with us about Braden (especially Officer Eeten and Detective Taylor). It is my opinion that the attention received as a result of the party resulted in Braden being more social and being picked on less. I understand that kids will be kids and bullying happens everywhere no matter what is done about it. Unfortunately adults cannot see everything and be everywhere at all time.
I guess I should explain a little about what makes Braden who he is. He has aspergers. He struggles socially. He is a very smart child, but gets overstimulated and does not read social cues very well. He “obsesses” over subjects . For the past few years it was nascar. He can quote statistics and tell you the sponsors of each car, the numers, and the drivers . While he still loves nascar, he has moved on to MLB baseball. He plans to become a pitcher for the yankees when he grows up. He also has a hereditary condition called strabismus which is a misalignment of the eyes. So many times over the years he has been teased because of his “lazy eyes.”
This year Braden had handed out 90 invitations to kids and also invited several through social media. What a turnout! At one point I counted 14 kids playing baseball together while about a dozen played on the playground! My grandma counted over 50 people there to celebrate Bradens day. The best part of all is that Braden asked for no gifts for himself but for donations of drinks and snacks for our officers while they work. His friends and family came through for him and we ended up filling a police suv with gatorades and snacks! Our community is awesome!”