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Boy helps mistreated children; inspired by father's journey

Gavin Wooldridge wants to help the same organization that helped raise his father.

A 6-year-old boy has made it his personal mission to help kids who have been abused, neglected or abandoned.

Gavin Wooldridge’s goal is to raise $5,000 for the Roy Maas Youth Alternatives Meadowland campus. His inspiration came from his father, John, who lived there for 11 years.

The Meadowland campus is a long term residential facility for kids who don’t have a stable home with their family. John ended up at Meadowland because his grandparents could no longer take care of him.

“The day that I lost my mom really changed my thought on life, my insight into what it should be.

Everyone makes mistakes, but that was my mistake for giving up on the world, [for thinking that] everything is going to be against me because I lost my mom,” said John.

He said when he found Meadowland, he felt a sense of security and stability again.

“As soon as I showed up, Roy Maas was actually here when I got out of the car,” recalled John. “He just explained that this is going to feel different than any other place you've been in, and we’re going to make it feel like a family.”

John said Maas‘ words turned out to be true. The staff made him feel like he was home, and John said to this day, he still keeps in touch with the other kids who stayed with him on campus.

“I still talk to some of the guys I grew up with. We still call each other brothers,” said John. “It felt so much like home. We felt more like a family than just a group home," he said.

Roy Maas asked John to share his personal story at an upcoming Fiesta event for the organization.

He said after getting off the phone with the organizer, he broke down into tears. John said he felt honored to have been chosen and was moved by their request. His son, Gavin saw it all unfold.

“The first thing that he said was, 'What’s wrong?' I said nothing. I’m actually happy. He asked me why, and I explained to him in detail for much as a child could understand,” said John.

Gavin was inspired by his father’s journey. He decided in that moment that he was going to help other kids at the Meadowland campus. John helped set up a GoFundMe page, and he’s raised more than $1,000 so far.

Gavin said he felt happy that people have helped him with his fundraiser.

Renee Garvens, senior director of community and donor relations at Roy Maas, said last year, 135 kids stayed at Meadowland. The campus has space for 80 kids. She said there is always help needed to continue the organization’s services and Gavin’s efforts are much appreciated.

“We have 23 buildings on this campus, so there’s a lot of roofs, air conditioners, flooring, plumbing and electricity. A lot of maintenance that costs a lot of money. That’s something we can never quite afford to do as well as we would like to,” said Garvens.

If you would like to help Gavin and his fundraiser, click here.