Asher Bravo of Houston will never forget the day he learned he could make a difference in this world.
It was the day he learned about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I was watching YouTube and I saw an eight-minute-long ad about St. Jude, about one of the patients,” Asher recalled of that day in 2019. “I think the girl played basketball, and one day she woke up and she had a really bad pain in her leg. So, they went to a doctor, and she had cancer.”
Eight minutes can be a long time for a kid. But Asher couldn’t turn away.
“That’s how I really got interested in St. Jude, and I asked my parents: ‘Can we help? I just feel really sad for these people who have to go through this.’”
Some kids might have stopped at just feeling sad, but that’s not who Asher is.
Asher put pen to paper to express how he felt in a letter-writing fundraiser for St. Jude.
The concept came to him when his grandmother asked him what he wanted for Christmas. “I don’t really need anything,” he told her. “What if you just donated to St. Jude for me?” His mom loved the idea and suggested he expand it. So, Asher wrote handwritten letters to 15 loved ones, asking them to give to St. Jude instead of giving him presents. He raised more than $5,000.
Since then, his annual winter fundraiser has snowballed. He exceeded his goals for $10,000 in 2020; $15,000 in 2021; and $20,000 in 2022.
“I’m amazed that it’s not always the people you’d expect who give the most. Some people just want to give,” said Asher’s mom, Margaret Bravo, who fields messages every year from people asking to be added to Asher’s mailing list.
This year, Asher asked local companies to sponsor him and his best friend, Bennett Thomas, as they completed a 10-mile run for St. Jude around Lady Bird Lake in Austin. “Keeping St. Jude in mind just kind of helped me push through it,” said Asher. The early November run raised more than $4,000, kickstarting his holiday efforts.
The personal touch remains at the forefront of Asher’s vision. To reach his $30,000 fundraising goal this year, the 14-year-old handwrote 90 letters.
“If I just sent them a copy-and-paste email, then that wouldn’t really seem personal. It would just seem like it was copy and pasted. But this seems a lot more from the heart and that I actually really do care about this.”
Writing his St. Jude letters the week after Thanksgiving — and delivering homemade cookies as a thank you — has become as much a part of the holiday season as decorating the Christmas tree. And it’s a tradition he plans to keep for the long haul.
“I’m really, really thankful for the people who donate. It’s the best gift they could ever give me.”