November 26, 2019

Enthusiastic 10-year-old 'Change Maker' will light Holiday Kids' Tree (w/ video)

By: Brian Mittge   Comments: 0
Jayden Nelson, 10, poses for a photo in a Centralia coffee shop where she had spent the afternoon collecting "Nickels for Noah," a fundraiser in honor of a local boy with brain cancer who had been cared for at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. Jayden, who was inspired by an elementary school book called "Change Makers," collected more than $200 in this particular fundraiser, which she donated to Mary Bridge in Noah's honor. (A donor also gave her a superhero Teddy bear.) Jayden will light the 2019 Holiday Kids' Tree on Dec. 6 in the state Capitol rotunda in Olympia. (Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB)
When the Holiday Kids' Tree lights go on next Friday, Dec. 6, a young "change maker" from Lewis County will be the one flipping the switch. 

Jayden Nelson, now 10, started raising money and buying toys for Mary Bridge Children's Hospital on her 8th birthday -- in fact, she donated her birthday money that year. Since then she has become a whirlwind of activity: lemonade stands, spaghetti dinner fundraisers, selling homemade candles, and more. She has raised $4,500 for the children's hospital and its patients so far, and this fifth-grader has no plans of slowing down. 

It all started in her second grade class in Pe Ell, when her teacher (and aunt), Joleen Peterson, read the book "Change Makers" by Libby Martinez. Jayden went home that day and told her mother that she wanted to be a change maker. Her mom, Eddi Nelson, was confused at first, asking her, “You want to be in a factory and make coins?” 

“No mom!," Jayden said. "I want to do good for the world.”

She soon connected with Mary Bridge as the recipient of her generosity, and she hasn't looked back. She has been honored on stage by Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, and last year she threw the first pitch at a Mariners game after receiving the governor's annual Volunteer Service Award in the youth category.

AWB, which has organized the state's Holiday Kids' Tree Project for 31 years, picked Jayden to light the tree this year because she embodies the spirit of generosity that has been the hallmark of the project for three decades. Toys used to decorate the tree will, at the end of December, go to a local children's hospital -- this year, in honor of Jayden, they will be donated to Mary Bridge. 

And while the toys bring joy to children experiencing health problems, the Holiday Kids' Tree Project has another way of spreading a spirit of warmth during the darkest time of the year. 

Thanks to donations from AWB members and individuals from around the state, the Holiday Kids' Tree Project has donated more than $420,000 since 1989 for needy families during the holiday season. 

This year, 19 rural fire districts from around the state will receive $500-$1,000 and a big bag of toys to distribute to needy families in their communities over the holiday season.

Jayden's selection as a tree-lighter is related to project in another way: her father, Charlie Nelson, is the assistant fire chief of Lewis County Fire District 16 -- which is one of the 19 districts receiving a cash grant to give food and toys to needy families (plus a bag of toys).

As far as gifts go, Jayden would like to see everyone have a copy of the book "Change Makers" and be moved to act with generosity.

"They might get inspired to do something," she said. "Believe in your dreams. Just go for it."

Learn more about Jayden's work and help support her efforts at her Facebook page.

To learn more about the Holiday Kids' Tree Project or to donate online, click here.

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Join Gov. Inslee, Jayden Nelson and AWB at the 31st lighting of the Holiday Kids' Tree on Friday, Dec. 6, starting at 6 p.m. It's a fun, free, family-friendly event that kicks off the Christmas and holiday season with a spirit of generosity. We'll see you there! 

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