Aaron England is like a lot of other 7-year-old boys. He spends time playing outside with friends, riding his bike and swimming. But unlike many kids his age, Aaron is devoting much of his time these days for a special project to raise money to help kids around the world.
Aaron was born with Congenital Talipes Equinovarus or clubfoot. Because of his struggles to overcome this treatable birth defect, Aaron has a special place in his heart to help others in poor countries who may not have the same access to treatment that he did in the US.
Clubfoot is a deformity present at birth that twists the foot downward and inward, making walking difficult or impossible. While it cannot be prevented, it can be corrected using a relatively inexpensive treatment process called the Ponseti method, the gold standard of clubfoot treatment.
“I have clubfoot, and I think about people having to walk a long way to the doctor [in developing countries], and I want to help them,” Aaron said. “I went through a lot with my surgeries and everything. I just want to help people who have to walk a long way and it is really hard to get help for clubfoot.”
New fundraising idea
Last year, Aaron and his family raised money with a bake sale for Hope Walks, a non-profit that provides clubfoot treatment at no cost to families in 16 countries in Africa and Latin America.
This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bake sale was not possible for the England family, but that hasn’t stopped this energetic young man. Completely on his own, he developed a plan to raise and sell flower and vegetable seedlings, and make and sell friendship bracelets.
“When I figured out that we couldn’t have our bake sale because of COVID-19, it just popped into my head that I could do yard work to make extra money to help Hope Walks,” Aaron said.
“Aaron had many struggles and complications after his surgery,” Anjie England, Aaron’s mother, said. “He never had a bad attitude. He never lost hope. He has never stopped thinking about others. In what might be his darkest moments, he was still trying to make others smile. Aaron worships through the pain, the valleys and the dark times. He never gives up.”
“We consider it an honor to walk this journey. It is our joy to help Hope Walks,” Anjie said. “I am so proud of him for working hard on his own and having such a generous and compassionate heart. I can take no credit for what he is doing. He is a pretty amazing human.”
Aaron is seven months out from having bilateral anterior tibialis tendon transfers and Achilles tenotomies. He has been out of his wheelchair for five months and is currently in physical therapy. He’ll be entering the second grade at Lincoln Elementary, Clovis Unified School District, in the fall.
Hope Walks’ mission
Hope Walks is a Christian non-profit based in Dillsburg, PA, whose mission is to free children and families from the physical, emotional and economic burden of clubfoot. Every three minutes, a child is born with clubfoot somewhere in the world, including children like Aaron in the US. However, the majority of clubfoot births happen in low- and middle-income countries where many don’t know treatment is possible or simply cannot afford it. Even in the US, most people have never heard of clubfoot or know it devastates the life of a child if left untreated. With simple treatment and for a few hundred dollars, Hope Walks frees kids from disability and transforms their lives both physically and spiritually.
“Being born with a disability in a low- or middle-income country isn’t just a financial hardship, it’s a life-altering source of shame, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Hope Walks President Scott Reichenbach said. “Hope Walks is honored and touched that Aaron is supporting our efforts. We couldn’t be more proud of our youngest spokesperson.”
Aaron is timing his fundraiser around June 3, which is recognized as World Clubfoot Day. The day is set aside to honor the birthday of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, who developed the minimally invasive clubfoot-correction technique of casts and braces, which now bears his name. Dr. Ponseti, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 95, was a Spanish physician who immigrated to the US shortly after the Spanish Civil War. He developed his ground-breaking procedure as a faculty member and practicing physician at the University of Iowa.
Aaron will be selling his plants and bracelets outside of his home to friends and neighbors. Even though shipping the plants and bracelets is not possible, you can still show your support for this young philanthropist by donating online at Aaron’s Hope, www.hopewalks.org/aaronshope.
About Hope Walks: What began in 2006 as CURE Clubfoot Worldwide has grown into Hope Walks—and we plan to keep going (and keep growing) until all children have access to quality care for clubfoot. We partner with 136 clinics in 16 countries in Latin America and Africa. We pair quality clubfoot treatment with compassionate care from counselors (called parent advisors), all while empowering local healthcare workers and educating parents and caregivers.