Braxton Anderson wasn’t thinking about pills, doctors or hospital stays when he started his first fundraiser.
The 9-year-old from Callaway began to raise money for Tabitha’s Meals on Wheels program after hearing from his cousin and Tabitha CEO Christina Hinrichs about the work done there.
A $3 donation grew to $12,000 in less than two weeks to help deliver meals to seniors around Lincoln.
“We were just at home and he had 12 quarters in his hands,” Hinrichs said. “He walked up to me randomly and said, ‘I want to donate this to Tabitha Meals on Wheels.'”
Braxton wanted to help Lincoln seniors get their nutrition, even though he doesn’t get enough by himself. He was born with with his intestines outside his body, a defect called gastroschisis. During one of the many surgeries to help fix the condition, his intestines kinked and died, eventually leaving him with short bowel syndrome.
“When you have (short bowel syndrome) you don’t have the surface area in your intestines to absorb nutrients,” said Cassie Anderson, Braxton’s mom. “He doesn’t eat enough to maintain his weight and grow.”
After the initial $3 contribution on June 23, Braxton asked family members to match his donation until he ended up with $46. Hinrichs shared his fundraising efforts with Tabitha’s board of directors, and soon everyone was matching with their own $46 donations.
Hinrichs then pitched Tabitha’s Meals on Wheels program along with Braxton's story at an event for 100s of Women Who Care, which hosts competitions to award charities donations of $10,000 or more.
Meals on Wheels won the competition that night, bringing the amount raised as a result of Braxton's efforts to more than $12,000.
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He was overjoyed when he heard the news.
“At the end of the night, we were talking to him about how one person can make a difference,” Hinrichs said. “That’s when he said, ‘This is the best day of my life ever!’”
Tabitha, a nonprofit, offers health-care services to seniors in 28 Nebraska counties. Besides Meals on Wheels, the organization provides in-home care, rehabilitation and hospice support. Its main campus is in Lincoln.
Each meal in the Meals on Wheels program costs $6.25. Tabitha distributes more than 500 meals a day, and more than 70 percent of those recipients couldn't otherwise afford the meals. The program relies heavily on donations.
Braxton has had 75 surgeries since he was born and takes medication eight times a day. He also has been on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) his whole life, which is given through a central line every night in order to help him get adequate nutrition.
Cassie Anderson and her husband are hoping to wean Braxton off TPN so he can sustain himself just by eating solid food. The lipids from the nutrition damage the liver, causing him to have stage 4 liver disease. He also has to be immediately admitted to the hospital if he has a fever of 100.5 degrees or more, because it could signal a deadly blood infection.
But Braxton's condition isn’t the first thing on his mind. He continues to go door to door asking people to match his original $3 donation, along with having a fundraiser on Facebook. He is going to be a fourth-grader, loves to read and swim in the pool.
“He is such an energetic little kid and he doesn’t spend any time letting his medical condition drag him down,” Hinrichs said. “He always wants to help others.”