GREENFIELD — When Brandon Wood first looked at the website tracking his students’ fundraising efforts, he thought he was seeing a mistake.
But there it was, alongside first-grader Trenton Beaver’s name – donations to the American Heart Association totaling nearly $1,000.
For the J.B. Stephens physical education teacher, that number came as a big surprise.
In recognition of February as American Heart Month, Wood had dedicated time in gym class to promoting heart-healthy activities and encouraging students to raise money to support the Heart Association, and as the initiative drew to a close, one student stood out among the rest. Trenton, 7, brought in more than $1,100, almost half the entire school’s total.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Wood said. “I’ve never had anybody get close to that.”
And it was all because Trenton had more than a flier to present to friends and family; he had a story.
Trenton was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital disorder that prohibits the left side of the heart from developing properly.
He’s had three open-heart surgeries to address the problem, the first at just 3 weeks old. He went under the knife again when he was 5 months old and a third time when he was 2. One day, he’ll likely be on the list for a heart transplant.
But watching Trenton bounce around the living room of his Greenfield home on a recent afternoon, clad in a Peyton Manning jersey – a nod to his favorite player – you’d never know the boy had spent much of his early life in the hospital.
He’s quiet, and he’s small for his age, but he doesn’t approach life as if he has limitations.
In fact, he refers to his disorder as his “special heart.”
When Trenton came home with information about his school’s fundraising campaign, his mother, Shannon Beaver, saw an opportunity.
She posted pictures of Trenton online, telling his story, and included a link to the fundraising page.
And then, the money just started rolling in.
Within an hour, $100 had been donated in Trenton’s honor. By the end of the night, the amount had tripled.
“It just kept coming through,” Shannon Beaver said. “People that I haven’t talked to in years, giving money.”
The family had set an initial goal of $250, but people just kept giving, said Trenton’s father, Matt Beaver.
He said he believes the story of his son’s perseverance had a direct impact on his fundraising efforts.
“He’s got some limitation, but he’s here, and he’ll be 8 in a month,” he said. “I think that that helped encourage people to donate. It turned into something we didn’t anticipate.”
Wood said he didn’t realize Trenton was living with a heart condition, and the boy didn’t mention it in gym class as the fundraiser got started.
But when the final totals came in, Wood started asking around and figured out what had happened.
When the campaign was over, he made sure to recognize the boy in front of the class.
“Everybody was so excited for Trenton and cheering,” he said.
The American Heart Association is the second-largest contributor of funding for heart disease research behind the federal government, and every donation counts, said Becky Young, association youth marketing director.
This year, the 22-county Heart Association territory of which Greenfield schools are a part set a goal of raising $41,790 online.
That was a considerable jump over 2012’s $26,000 raised online.
“I thought, ‘Oh, wow. We’ll never get there,’” Young said. “Well, we’re almost to $58,000, and we’re not done.”
J.B. Stephens Principal Candy Short was excited knowing a J.B. Stephens student made a difference in the campaign. The school is planning to recognize Trenton at an upcoming event.
“It’s just wonderful when a student and his family can get behind an event we’re doing here at school,” she said. “He just went over the moon for this one. It’s an outstanding effort.”
Shannon Beaver said the family has always been lucky to have a strong support system, but she was overwhelmed by the kindness that came from strangers.
“I think it just shows how blessed we are and how many people have been inspired by him,” she said. “Matt and I … always say he’s touched more people in his short life than all of us have touched in ours.”