Using his artistic talents and a charitable spirit, Highland 11-year-old Jaiden Rhodes was able to brighten the holiday for children that are forced to be away from home this Christmas.
Jaiden was able to raise $256 by selling his hand-crafted Christmas ornaments. Jaiden’s mother, Aisha Ricks, used the money to buy toys for children in need. Jaiden and Aisha delivered the toys last week, taking half to St. Jude House in Crown Point, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and the other half to Franciscan Health Dyer.
“My mission is to reach out to the children in hospitals and get them a toy to put a smile on their faces. This is something I always wanted to do,” wrote Jaiden in a message about his project.
Aisha said her son, along with being a talented artist, is very grounded, so when he told her his plan, she knew she had to help. She purchased glass ornaments that he could enhance with drawings and decorations. “I just wanted to follow through with Jaiden’s vision,” she said. Jaiden started with about five different ideas for designs, but also customized some of the ornaments when he received a special order, Aisha said.
The project has meant even more to the family during the pandemic. Aisha recently lost a cousin, who died from COVID-19. That cousin used to organize toy drives, and Aisha said her pastor told her that, “maybe Jaiden is following her vision.”
“It was emotional to me. Just being able to drop things off. To just think about this making a child smile. That’s Jaiden’s vision,” Aisha said.
"I am so inspired by Jaiden's kind heart and gifts to children who will spend this Christmas season in the hospital," said Rick Peltier, Executive Director of the Franciscan Health Foundation. "He is a role model to all of us and is living proof that it is always more meaningful to give than to receive. Great job, Aisha, in teaching this invaluable lesson to Jaiden at such a young age. He can join our Foundation Team anytime he wants."