Deceased Toddler's 'Tip Jar' Inspires, Collects Thousands

A little boy's short life continues to affect many after his death.

— -- "He came here for a reason."

Two-year-old Brandon Nahmias died when he was just 2 years old. But his life continues to have meaning, mom Jessy Nahmias says.

She sold empanadas for years at food markets. And next to her empanadas, a simple tip jar stood, with a picture of Brandon.

"His heart couldn't take it," the New York woman said.

After his death, his mom said she "went numb for about two years. I didn't want to live."

But Jessy has two other children, and life had to go on. She wanted some way to honor Brandon.

"People would leave tips but I didn't feel right about that," Jessy said of her empanada stand. "So I put out the tip jar instead to try and raise money for other kids with Down syndrome."

She collected thousands of dollars and donated it all to Gigi's Playhouse NYC, a Down syndrome achievement center. "Brandon's Tip Jar," as it has come to be known, has improved the lives of many other children, said Benny Kaufman, program director at Gigi's Playhouse NYC.

The tips, Kaufman said, "support free academic and recreational programs for other individuals with Down syndrome so that they can explore and define their potential. It's helped kids like Brandon learn to read and make life-long friends, it's helped parents receive the support they need, and it's helped create welcoming communities and change New York's perception of Down syndrome."

The organization was so inspired by the enormous effect of Jessy's simple jar that they created an online “virtual tip jar" in Brandon's memory.

And Brandon's short life continues to make a difference. Nahmias just opened her own shop, called Jessy's Pastries, in Oceanside, New York.

She plans to hire people with Down syndrome to work there. "That was my goal all along, to have a storefront and continue to help people with Down syndrome, Nahmias said. "Brandon came here to show us all what we're supposed to do."

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