The first time the dog ate his hearing aids it was a simple mistake. The second time it was an issue.
Braden Baker, 12, was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. He has about 75 percent hearing loss and it's unknown if his condition will worsen over time. His bluetooth hearing aids, which cost between $4,000 and $8,000, are not covered by insurance.
“My parents got mad at me and gave me this whole talk basically telling me how expensive hearing aids are and how lucky I am to be able to afford them,” said Braden.
“I wear Opticon OPN hearing aids," said Braden. "They are super cool because they have a Bluetooth feature.”
Braden photographed wearing his promotional t-shirt.
Once he realized how much hearing aids helped him, Braden decided he wanted to find a way to help give hearing aids to those who cannot afford them.
He began to think, “WWED, what would Ellen do?” He launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $1,000 for the Oticon Hearing Foundation, which provides hearing aids to people around the world.
His mother, Ashley Baker’s, let him post a video ask for donations on her Facebook page. “Truthfully, I was a little leery about him posting it to my Facebook page, because I am not a big fan of asking people for money," Ashley said. "However, I loved that he had the idea and gumption to get it started and created on his own.
So far, he's raised more than $105,000.
“Honestly I didn’t really like my first video, but it got me invited to the Oticon Headquarters,” Braden said, who arrived with a check for $15,000.
Braden photographed holding the $15,000 check given to Oticon Hearing Foundation.
As Braden’s campaign continued to grow, Ellen - his inspiration found out. He was invited to The Ellen Show in October of 2017.
“I had nothing to do with him getting in the show," said Ashley. "We were contacted by the producers, as they had seen his story on GoFundMe.”
Braden on The Ellen Show.
The show raised his profile and boosted his impact on the world.
“Being on Ellen was the coolest thing that has ever or probably will ever happen to me! I was really emotional when the show called me because I look up to her so much,” said Braden.
Ellen gave Braden $20,000 on her show, bringing him to tears.
"Braden isn’t some outstandingly amazing young guy," his mother said. "He’s a normal average Fortnite addict, mediocre school performing kid."
Braden decided to take his effort international.
For his 11th birthday, he asked his parents if he could go to Guatemala to give hearing aids to kids and adults in need.
Braden shown looking into the country of Guatemala.
“We were able to give around 150 hearing aids on the first trip which was in November of 2017, and around 120 or more on our second visit in January or 2019," Braden said. "We also went to Zambia, Africa and did the same kind of work! It was amazing!”
Braden and his mother met Dr. Kamal Elliott at the Oticon headquarters in New Jersey. An audiologist, she happened to be at the Oticon headquarters at the same time as them.
Braden photographed with Dr. Elliot.
She invited Braden to join Entheos, a hearing cooperative for audiologists. Its mission group, “Hearing the Call,” travels to various locations around the world.
“She is the most important catalyst to our story," Ashley said. "It’s all about the “hearing smiles” because a lot of patients smile when hearing clearly for the first times in their life.”
Braden is the Global Ambassador for Entheos Hearing The Call Missions group. He and his mother travel with the group. He is also an ambassador for Oticon.
Braden hopes to travel to Ecuador in August. In March, he and Ashley hosted a former deaf America’s Got Talent winner, Mandy Harvey, at a fundraiser held in Fort Worth.
“What he did was step out of his comfort zone and create an idea that organically rolled into something magical. As a mother, I’ve had to make sure he stays with the commitments he’s made. I’ve watched him learn how to be of and for others, be a part of a service group, step up on a stage and deliver awesome speeches, and truly understand the depths of what he’s started. It’s possible for anyone to step into their calling. You just never know when it’s going to show up!” said Ashley.