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Pay It Forward | Brayden's Winter Wonderland

Meet 13-year-old Brayden Mildren who uses his passion of Christmas inflatables to give back to his peers.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Brayden Mildren has been enamored with Christmas inflatable yard decorations since he was a toddler.

“It all started when they bought the first inflatable for fun because it was Christmas time. I went from one to so many,” Brayden said.

One year Brayden's family had come over for Christmas and wanted to look at Christmas displays. His dad Bill found a yard display in Moline called "Henry's Christmas Yard" that was put on by homeowner Scott Hildebrand.

Brayden was amazed at the inflatables that Scott had on display

From then on, Brayden found a mentor in Scott. Brayden would go over to help Scott with his display, learning valuable skills that would help him with his own display one day.

Scott retired from putting on "Henry's Christmas Yard" after the 2020 holiday season after his dog, who was his inspiration, had passed away.

Scott gave Brayden his 32-foot-tall Santa Claus inflatable that helped launch Brayden’s Winter Wonderland.

Brayden continues Scott’s tradition of collecting donations from people coming by to look at the display

 “A passion from Scott...he did (collect) cans,” Brayden said.

Last year Brayden collected hats, gloves and socks that he donated to people in need.

But he noticed that a lot of places were taking those same kind of donations and he wanted to be different.

So for his donations in 2022, he decided that he wanted to collect LEGO collections to give to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital, specifically to the Autism Center and Pediatric Psychology clinic.

“They’re trying to make use of their brain to put things together. And so I was like, oh, what about LEGOs. Because you can put bricks together and it just makes it better,” Brayden said.

Brayden has caught the eye of community members like Jordan Farnum, who first met Brayden at Henry’s Christmas Yard

“All the good he does for the community and being such a young age and does all the work himself with very little help,” Jordan said. “We took some socks last year. This year we took LEGOs over to him.”

On Jan. 13, Brayden took the LEGOs he collected to the Children's Hospital in Iowa City, and they were beyond grateful.

One of the employees at the hospital let him and his family know his donation of LEGOs has encouraged the hospital to build a LEGOs area in the hospital to help those with autism.

Brayden plans on collecting LEGOs this year as well and will put the money towards buying more LEGOs to donate.

Brayden buys all the inflatables himself. He tries to buy them in January since they are on sale after the holidays.

“They’re like 75% off right now so there’s an inflatable that’s $99, it’ll go down to like $30.”

Brayden tries to put up his display after Thanksgiving, but they started in October because he has so many, and it takes a while to put up.

He currently has 112 inflatables and adds about 20 to 30 more inflatables each year.

When he has inflatables up, he has to watch the weather. If winds get above 11 mph, he has to take down the huge Santa Claus inflatable and if it gets over 40 mph, he takes them all down. If there are any snowstorms, he takes them down and covers them up to protect them.

He notifies people via his Facebook page of when he must take down the inflatables or when he has his grand opening each season

“I post every day when the display is up and when it's not up and then they know when to drive by or not...there’s probably 30 or 40 people that show up” Brayden said.

You can check out Brayden’s Winter Wonderland this holiday season at 915 Idaho Ave.in Davenport, Iowa.

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