When asked what they would like for their 9th birthday, the anticipated answer from most kids would most likely entail a laundry list of toys. Not for 9-year-old Richmond Hill resident Jaydon Hodges. The gift he asked his mother for isn’t for sale at the local Toys ‘R’ Us.
Jaydon, who has been intently following the local news stories on the Ware County fires, told his mother he wanted to help those firefighters in lieu of a 9th birthday present. His mother Marilyn Hodges, after overcoming her shock, said she was filled with pride and became determined to help young Jaydon do just that.
The Hodges went down to the local fire station where they encountered Richmond Hill Firefighter of the Year Michelle Meacham.
"We were very shocked," said Meacham. "That’s just not normal. It’s great that, at his age, he’s thinking about other people in an emergency situation. When we saw how sincere he was, we scrambled to get a list together."
Meacham said she called RHFD Chief Vernon Rushing and they came up with "a list of stuff we would need if we were down there, like deodorant, powder and extra water. Then we contacted the Red Cross and found out that they were making runs pretty much on a regular basis."
Jaydon wrote a letter asking all his neighbors to unite and help the firefighters in Ware County. In his introduction, Jaydon asks them to "please help me to help these brave men and women…for my birthday." It also gave a list of requested items and the date he would be returning to their homes to collect the items.
Jaydon and his mother put his note into mailboxes throughout Sterling Creek and Mulberry subdivisions and came back the following week to collect the goods. The Hodges were pleased with the volume of donations they received. Some of the goods they collected included 138 bottled waters, 40 toothbrushes, 126 bars of soap and 97 packs of chewing gum.
Jaydon said the firefighters desperately need these items because "they can’t stop fighting the fire to go to Wal-Mart or the fire will spread. When they run out of water, they call on somebody else and let them fight while they refill.""I think his letter really touched people’s hearts," said Marilyn. "There is so much bad in the world today and they feel compelled to stop and react when they see a child that is doing something good for another human being."
With help from Meacham, the Hodges ended up at a Savannah fire station where the goods would be transported to Ware County from.
They called ahead with their intentions and Savannah firefighters were apparently equally impressed with young Jaydon.
Upon the Hodges arrival at the Savannah station, they were met with a television news crew and Jaydon appeared on WTOC that evening while riding in a fire truck, touring the station and talking about his birthday mission.
On top of that, Marilyn said Jaydon approached Father Joseph Smith of their church, St. Anne’s, to see if he would bless the firefighters.
Father Smith not only did so, but also decided to help Jaydon in his collection efforts by getting the word out via the church newsletter.
"It is a positive reflection on our society when we see young people placing the needs of others ahead of themselves," said Smith. "Very easily Jaydon could have wanted his birthday to be all about him. However, through his simple effort, Jaydon has taught others about giving and a respect for others. Can you imagine how different our world might be if our world was guided more by the spirit of this child’s selflessness?"
If you would like to help call Hodges at 658-1572.