Honor for 10-year-old Mass. boy helping veteransBy PATRICK RONAN , Associated Press
Apr. 6, 2013 12:15 AM ET
KINGSTON, Mass. (AP) — Last May, "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts offered Brendan Haas a gift that most 9-year-olds would jump at: an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World.
But Brendan, appearing on live on national television, declined the offer.
"We can't accept a trip to Disney, but we have many more people who would like to have an all-expenses-paid (trip)," Brendan, of Kingston, said.
Brendan redirected the TV show's gift, donating it to the family of a fallen soldier from Arizona. The reason Brendan was on "Good Morning America" in the first place was because he had already donated a Disney vacation to a military family in Duxbury, as part of his initiative called A Soldier for a Soldier.
For his generosity, the South Shore Community Action Council will recognize Brendan, now 10, at its annual Local Heroes awards ceremony tonight at the Radisson hotel in Plymouth.
Those who know Brendan, a fourth-grader at Kingston Intermediate School, say he isn't comfortable with the adulation.
"He doesn't want recognition. He gets red-faced and embarrassed if we bring it up," Lisa McMahon, principal at Kingston Intermediate School, said. "We do bring it up because he is such a great role model here."
Melissa Haas, Brendan's mother, said Brendan came up with the idea for A Soldier for a Soldier last February when his father, Eric, told him about the One Red Paperclip Project. The project is named after a man who in 2005 started with a red paperclip and traded all the way up to a new house.
Brendan liked the concept so much that he started a trading plan of his own, but he replaced the paperclip with a toy soldier and designated the benefactor as the families of fallen soldiers. Within several months, he garnered plenty of attention through Facebook and managed to trade up to the Disney vacation. On Memorial Day, he held a drawing containing the names of 16 military families from across the U.S.
"He was getting teary on Memorial Day, reading the stories of the families who had entered the raffle," Melissa Haas said. "I'm getting teary just talking about it."
Coincidentally, the winner of the drawing was local, the family of Army Lt. Timothy J. Steele, 25, of Duxbury, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after hearing about Brendan's efforts, donated a solar home built by the college. On Veterans Day, Bart and Marie Kincaid of Princeton donated a 3.8-acre lot of land on which the home can be placed.
Now Brendan and his family are trying to raise enough money to move the home, which is being stored in Boston, to Princeton. Brendan's family will hold a trivia-night fundraiser on Friday, April 5, at the Kingston Knights of Columbus. The event starts at 7 p.m. and it costs $10 to get in.
"He has all these great ideas," Melissa Haas said. "He's very imaginative."
McMahon said Brendan's efforts have inspired some of her other students to launch their own fundraisers and charity drives. She said Brendan has taught them that even a small gesture can go a long way in helping people.
"They never thought someone their age here in Kingston could do something that could be recognized nationally," McMahon said. "I think that is what has inspired them: that it all started with a small, plastic soldier from a 9-year-old."