-- When 5-year-old Haylen Astalos' mom asked him if he wanted to take the summer off from his selfless hobby of selling treats from his ice cream stand to raise money for sick children, the boy had a blunt response.
"Duh, I'm going to keep going," his mom, Tabita Astalos, recalled.
Astalos, a mom of two, said that Haylen's idea to give back to other kids was sparked when his family decided to throw him a "five-for-five" party for his fifth birthday celebration last September.
"Each guest brought two five-dollar bills -- one for him to keep, and one for a charity of choice," Astalos said. "We presented him with a whole bunch of different charities and told him what each one did."
"They were awesome," Astalos added. "They gave him a tour of the place and told him about what they do there and he was so excited. He just loved that place."
Months later, Haylen approached his mother with help on a new project he wanted to kick off.
"He mentioned to me that he wanted to build an ice cream shop," Astalos said. "Being a 5-year-old, I thought maybe he had forgotten about the Ronald McDonald House. I asked him what he wanted to do with the money he made, and he said, 'I want to fill up my bucket and keep giving it back to them, so I can help all the sick kids that are there.'"
Soon after making his request, Astalos said she helped her son build what became "Haylen's Ice Cream Shop" -- a small, wooden structure where Haylen sells goodies such as ice cream cones and popsicles, for two dollars a piece.
"He told me where to put the wood, the nails, and it’s not straight," she said, laughing. "I'm not a carpenter whatsoever. It’s a miracle that this thing even stands up."
With help from his crooked, yet adorable little stand, and the local community, Haylen reached $2,617.21 on July 18, in less than one year, which he handed to the Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, in person.
“Ronald McDonald Houses help keep families together while their child is ill, and so it is truly a full-circle moment when families like Haylen’s support us in the work we do," said Cathy Loblaw, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada. "The 14 Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada, which are part of a global network of 348 Houses, provide a place for families to stay while their child is being treated at a nearby hospital."
"It is through the remarkable support of families like Haylen’s that we are privileged to serve over 23,000 families a year here in Canada and over 5.7 million families a year globally. Fundraising and support from families like Haylen’s truly define the meaning of community caring at its best and have become increasingly important as we grow to meet the needs of more families," Loblaw added.
Astalos said that Haylen has already set a new goal to raise $3,009.
“A lot of people ask him, ‘Why this number?' Because he’s 5, I have no idea,” Astalos said. “His original response was, ‘I know it will help lots and lots and lots and lots of kids and I want to help as many as he can.'"
"We are very, very proud of him," she added. "It's very cool to watch."