ABC News’ Linsey Davis and Lauren Sher:
Nine-year-old Brendan Haas, who spent three months trading things so he could win a vacation to Disney World and then gave it away to a girl whose father was killed in Afghanistan, was surprised with his own Walt Disney World trip today on “Good Morning America.”
To reward Brendan for his generosity, the Disney Company, the parent company of ABC, awarded Brendan’s family with an all-expense paid trip of their own, and made Brendan an “honorary citizen of Walt Disney World.”
But instead of accepting the trip, Brendan said he wanted to pay it forward yet again and that he’d be able to find another family of a fallen soldier who deserves it.
“We can’t accept a trip to Disney but we have many more people who would like to have an all-expenses paid [trip] …so we can do another raffle,” he said today from his home in Kingston, Mass.
His mom, Melissa Haas, said her son’s response even caught her off guard, but she never puts anything past him.
“Knowing him, in my head, I would think that he would do something like that,” Melissa Haas said. ”For a 9-year-old to get that opportunity and to have a response like that, it’s amazing. We say it’s like having a 40-year-old in a 9-year-old’s body. I am very proud.”
Brendan’s mom said he wants to donate the trip to another family from the original raffle pool.
In February, Brendan set up a Facebook page called “A Soldier for a Soldier,” hoping that he could trade his toy soldier for a trip to Disney World to give to a fallen soldier’s family.
“I just think they do something good, so I wanted to do something good back,” Brendan said of his toys and their real life counterparts.
Brendan was inspired by Kyle MacDonald, 26, who became an Internet sensation after trading a single red paperclip for a series of bigger items, and eventually his house.
Brendan said he posted his toy soldier one night, and the next morning, people immediately responded with hundreds of offers. He swapped through a NASCAR toy, a weekend ski vacation, and just before Memorial Day, he got what he wanted: an all-expenses paid trip to Disney World.
“I was just so excited,” Brendan recalled. “At first I was worried it wouldn’t work.”
The boy said he then put a bunch of names of military families that he’d gathered from Facebook into a hat, and pulled out the name of 2-year-old Liberty Hope Steele. Brendan soon surprised her family with the trip to Disney World.
Liberty Steele’s 25-year-old father — Army Lieutenant Timothy Steele — was killed last August in Afghanistan.
In a twist of fate, Lieutenant Steele apparently knew all about Kyle Macdonald’s original paperclip trade.
“The things Tim had in his pockets when he died were a St. Christopher’s Medal, a picture of his family, and a post it note with the words “red paperclip,” his mother, Mary Ellen Steele, said.
Disney will also upgrade the Steele’s family vacation, rolling out the red carpet for them on their visit.