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Paying it forward

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Jaydon Wouters is only nine-years-old, but already he sees the big picture.

On October 25, Jaydon celebrated his ninth birthday in style, he and 16 friends played street hockey, had a shootout and mixed it up with some water balloons.

There were cupcakes and plenty of them, which filled everyone up before they powered down and headed home.

It was a typical birthday party, complete with laughter and mayhem, except for one thing.

There weren't any gifts at Jaydon’s celebration as this youngster used his birthday as a platform to help kids less fortunate than himself.

This is no toy story; it’s one of advanced maturity and benevolent behavior from a fourth-grader who truly understands what it means to pay it forward.

Instead of being buried under a mountain of shiny new presents, Jaydon asked all his friends to instead bring a monetary donation to the party, which he in turn passed on to the Canucks for Kids Fund.

“I always like doing something like that,” said Jaydon, a soft-spoken Canucks fan from Nelson.

“I started out thinking I might do the breast cancer society this year, but then I thought it wouldn’t wrap in with my party. So then me and my mom came up with Canucks for Kids and I thought it was an amazing idea.”

Jaydon’s selfless generosity translated into $180 being sent, along with a letter, to the Canucks for Kids Fund. As is the case with any charitable donation, every little bit helps and the actions of this young man will now benefit children in the charities associated with the Canucks for Kids Fund.

In 2007, the Canucks for Kids Fund granted $2.3 million to children’s charities throughout British Columbia, including 13 grant recipients who were given over $10,000 each.

Debbie Butt, Executive Director of the Canucks for Kids Fund, said the fund is happily swamped with mail each week, but rarely do they receive such thoughtful donations from children.

“We get lots of mail from kids, but in terms of children coming together and giving up something that’s really important to them, he would have to be one of the very few.

“It does demonstrate a certain level of maturity and I think it also demonstrates that even young people can be philanthropic and that’s so impressive,” said Butt, who added that each year the Canucks for Kids Fund grants at least $2 million to charities, which couldn’t be done without the support of young fans like Jaydon.

“It’s inspirational to our group and our players and I think it’s inspirational to our whole organization to see that kind of response and caring and give-back from our fans.”

For Jaydon, the act of turning aside video games, Lego, Nerf toys and other trinkets is nothing new.

He and his younger brother Matthew, 7, have been hosting pay it forward parties for a number of years and according to their mom Jodi, it’s a tradition that has become quite popular around town.

“It’s actually a big thing in the Nelson area now, most of the birthday parties are pay it forward parties,” said Jodi, who also has a two-year-old daughter with her husband Chris.

“We always have really big birthday parties with lots of kids and it just got to be so much for them with all the presents and stuff, so we thought they could do something a lot better with their birthdays.”

What started as a simple idea, is now an annual event for each of the Wouters kids and it prides Jodi to see how her children have embraced helping others.

“Every year now, when it comes to planning their birthday parties, it’s more around what they’re going to do with their donations, who they’re going to do it for, how that’s going to wrap into their birthday party; those things have become the main focus now.

“It’s such an amazing thing because it’s watching them feel such pride in collecting things for somebody else.”

Jaydon, a passionate fan who supports the Canucks “because they’re such a great team,” is a defenseman himself, although he roots for Mason Raymond and Roberto Luongo when cheering on Vancouver.

Not surprisingly, had Jaydon gone the birthday present route this year, his favorite team would have been heavily involved in his wish list.

“Because I really like the Canucks, I would have liked some Canucks stuff and maybe some hockey stuff because I’m also a fan of hockey,” he said.

Not that it wouldn’t have been already, but thanks to Jaydon seeing the big picture and generously donating his birthday money to the Canucks for Kids Fund, his name will surely be etched on Santa’s nice list this year.

Who knows, maybe the jolly big guy will pay it forward and leave Jaydon some Canucks stuff this holiday season.

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