Young hero honored for work in getting toys, aid to Puerto Rico
Nine-year-old Jayden Perez received one of 14 awards from TD Bank for outstanding young citizens at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia on Thursday.
On Thursday, one of the youngest “heroes” honored by TD Bank at the National Liberty Museum was recognized for his work in tackling one of the biggest natural disasters in Puerto Rico’s history.
After Hurricane Maria slammed the island on Sept. 20, 2017, Jayden Perez, nine-years-old, learned about the suffering and desperation experienced by 3.5 million Puerto Ricans, including some of his own relatives who were living there. As his mother, Ana Rosado, began contributing to relief efforts from their home in Woodland, NJ, Perez came up with his own idea of how to help.
“Puerto Rico got a really bad hurricane, and it was around Christmas season, so I wanted them to get presents and money so that they can get houses and fix stuff. So I got the presents for them and I raised up money too,” Jayden said before the ceremony.
“I was asking for donations for toys and we got a whole bunch of toys and it was a huge success,” he added.
Rosado said their goal was to get around 200 toys to be able to send to kids in Puerto Rico, but the video that Jayden made went viral and people all over the world started shipping toys to them.
After collecting a total of 1,100 toys, Rosado said that they then opened a Go Fund Me account and raised over $10,000 to finance shipping costs. With those funds, Rosado, her fiance, and Jayden were able to fly to Puerto Rico to hand deliver the toys — a moment that was particularly special for Jayden.
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“It was really happy because I couldn’t explain their faces because they were shocked. They were happy, they were grateful, they were like every emotion that’s good,” said Jayden. “They were so excited and a lot of people were surprised, they thought that people forgot about them, but no, we didn’t."
The nine-year-old was among a star-studded group of young people at the awards ceremony on Thursday. Other awardees included Nasihah Thompson-King, 16, who became a public figure after she refused to take off her hijab to play in her basketball game as she had been ordered by the referee to do, and Morgan Bacon, 17, a student at the School District of Philadelphia who launched a campaign to draw attention to the lack of clean drinking water in the city’s schools that resulted in the installation of “hydrating stations” at every site in the School District, along with several other outstanding young people.
“Jayden’s story in particular really stuck out to me for several reasons. His source of inspiration, his age, and again, and...his global-mindedness and being so young is really incredible,” said Joel Sumner, awards program coordinator at the National Liberty Museum. “And the fact that he hasn’t stopped. Sometimes we honor kids who are doing really incredible things or they started something incredible, and what I think is unique about some of these stories, Jayden’s in particular, is that he hasn’t stopped doing his work and he still has future plans and he’s still giving back."
Jayden described how he has continued that work. He began to raise more money for animal food because he saw a lot of abandoned animals when he went to Puerto Rico for the toy drive delivery, and Rosado noted that he also had collected funds to ship baby food to the island.
Jayden said he is now working to collect lanterns to send to families to use when there are power outages during the new hurricane season, which officially began in June.
As for the award, Jayden said he had it all in perspective.
“It feels really good because I’m the youngest but it really doesn’t matter the age. It just matters what you’re doing, and you’re doing good,” he said.