'Battlin' Braden!' Cook Children’s Patient Hears the Call to Become Part of Marvel’s Hero Project on Disney+
The Marvel Comics Universe consists of ordinary people whose lives turn extraordinary once they discover their superpowers.
Braden Baker is one of those superheroes. Except Braden is not only in the pages of a comic book, appearing on Ellen and a Disney screen. He’s also a compassionate kid raising money for people from all over the world who can’t afford hearing aids.
Because of his heroic deeds, 13-year-old Braden will appear on the latest episode of Marvel’s Hero Project, which debuts today on Disney+.
Marvel’s website describes the documentary as a show which “reveals the remarkable, positive changes several young, real-life heroes are making in their communities. These inspiring, driven, and engaging kids have dedicated their lives to selfless acts of bravery and kindness. These young heroes are finding creative solutions to tackle big issues such as protecting our environment, ending hunger, championing inclusivity, and many more. Now, Marvel celebrates them as true Super Heroes. They are welcoming them into Marvel’s Hero Project.”
In superhero form, he is known as "Battlin' Braden!" "Braden considers his hearing aids his superpower: when he puts them in, he feels his world comes alive. But when he learned that not everyone who is hearing impaired can afford hearing aids, he knew he had to help. Made possible through his tireless fundraising efforts, he travels, across the world delivering hearing devices, witnessing how lives are transformed when the sound finally comes on." You can read Battlin' Braden #1 for free here.
So how did Braden land a spot on this program? Well, like any good superhero, let’s look at his origin story.
During his newborn hearing screen, doctors found that Braden was born 65% deaf. He was sent to Cook Children’s shortly after to begin treatment for his hearing loss. It was there that Braden’s mom, Ashley Baker, discovered her own set of heroes.
“I get emotional talking about Cook Children’s. From the moment I walked in there, I knew everything was going to be OK,” Ashley said. “I knew because of the people there, who were taking care of Braden. To have somebody tell you who knows, ‘Everything is going to be fine’ meant the world to me. They told me it was best they found it at the newborn hearing screening. Because we are catching it now, we can help Braden.’”
Most babies are born with normal hearing but every year three out of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss. Hearing loss is most often discovered during a newborn hearing screening in the hospital shortly after birth.
Pediatric audiologists focus on diagnosing specific types of hearing loss in children. At Cook Children's, the audiologists work closely with the child, as well as family, speech pathologists, school personnel and physicians to enhance functional hearing to help your child learn and develop.
That suppoort allows Ashley to even laugh now looking back, thinking about the first pair of hearing aids placed on Braden at Cook Children’s. He simply “freaked out” the first time he was able to hear. But because of the staff taking care of her, Ashley says she remained calm.
“It never felt huge or overwhelming because of the staff,” Ashley said. “Cook Children’s held my hand from the beginning. I did everything they told me to do. That is the whole reason, Braden has done so well. Early intervention. They changed the entire trajectory of my kid’s life. They even had someone from Cook Children’s go to Country Day when he began kindergarten. They told the teachers how he hears, what he hears, and the importance of wearing an FM (a wireless assistive hearing device that enhances the use of a hearing aid). And we still go to Cook Children’s to this day.”
Braden’s trajectory changed again in June 2017 when his dog, Chewy, ate one of his hearing aids. Braden’s parents lectured their son on the importance of taking better care of his hearing aids and explained they could be quite expensive.
Braden took the message to heart and decided he wanted to help others who couldn’t be careless with their hearing aids or couldn’t afford them.
He asked himself a question based on his fandom of his favorite talk show host, “What would Ellen do?”
Braden decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for people who can’t afford hearing aids. He advertised the campaign on his mom’s Facebook page.
He began to work with his local community, including Cook Children’s and the Fort Worth ISD. He also established a relationship with the Oticon Hearing Foundation, the company that makes his hearing aids.
Braden eventually connected with the Entheos Audiology group, “Hearing the Call,” which led to mission trips to Guatemala, Ecuador and Zambia, Africa. Ultimately, Braden helped reach more than 200 people who have received new hearing devices. Today, he has raised more than $107,000.
His question led to an answer and the chance to meet his inspiration. Braden appeared on the Ellen show in October of 2017.
From there, Braden spoke at events all over, and his story has reached hundreds of thousands of people.
And that all led to a fateful phone call that invited Braden and his family to New York to meet the crew from Marvel. They talked to Braden and learned more about his incredible tale of helping others. They took his adventures and created a comic book.
When it comes to all of the exposure and amazing things he’s accomplished and been a part of, Braden is more Steve Rogers than Tony Stark.
“While being a Marvel Hero is pretty awesome, what I hope the attention does is highlight the work of audiologists,” Braden said. “A lot of doctors get attention for the great work they do, but the work of the audiologists are changing the way people hear and experience the world.”
Now, he will continue to spread his inspiring message as part of the new Marvel’s Hero project. The documentary followed Braden to stops throughout Fort Worth.
“This has been another amazing experience. It’s just cool for Fort Worth and this kid who came from Cook Children’s,” Ashley said. “But there’s no way we take all the credit. It’s all the wonderful people who have paved our journey thus far. Marvel indoctrinated him into the Marvel Hero universe. In the book, he’s in hero form. He’s in action, throwing hearing aids out to people. Braden is a kid who turned his disability into a huge ability. There’s no perfection in heroism, and that’s always kind of been Marvel’s point.”
*Credit to Disney+ for images from the episode and to Marvel for images from the comic.
Get to know Cook Children's Audiology Department
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss in children can be different for every child. If your child was born with hearing loss, it is most often discovered during a newborn hearing screening in the hospital shortly after birth. Most of the complications of hearing loss can be prevented if your child is diagnosed by 3 months of age and appropriate treatment begins before your child is 6 months old. If the hearing loss happened after your child was born, you might be one of the first people to notice hearing or speech difficulties.
Pediatric audiologists focus on diagnosing specific types of hearing loss in children. At Cook Children's, our audiologists work closely with your child, as well as family, speech pathologists, school personnel and physicians to enhance functional hearing to help your child learn and develop.