Book drive for underserved kids honors life of Brayden Otten

A local nonprofit aims to distribute free books to about 2,400 school-aged children this year to honor the life, spirit and enduring legacy of Brayden Otten.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Brayden lived his 13 years with courage, kindness, humor, and unwavering commitment to friendship, according to his family.

Since Brayden’s passing in August 2022, his family, friends, teachers, and classmates have rallied to honor his legacy by creating the Brave Like Me Foundation. The Wyoming, Ohio-based organization provides services and programs tailored to children with complex medical conditions and their families.

Brayden Otten

Efforts include providing fun experiences – think indoor rock climbing or horseback riding, or other activities based on a child’s needs – and a mobile pet center that brings support animals to children and teens experiencing extended hospital stays.

It also invites children, ages 10 to 17, to serve as companions to young people who could use a friend.

As a way to take their efforts to the next level, Brave Like Me created Brayden’s Books through a partnership with Queen City Book Bank. The inaugural book-giving program features a selection of children’s and YA titles, handpicked by Brayden’s friends and teachers.

An effort led by family, friends

Brayden’s Books is a companion collection to the Queen City Book Bank’s curated book distribution program. Each title exhibits one or more of the characteristics Brayden possessed – bravery, kindness, humor, tenacity and friendship.

Educators at 13 schools in Cincinnati and the surrounding area have the opportunity to select books from the collection based on their students’ reading level and interests.

The goal is to ensure children in underserved schools have access to books they may not have at home, according to John Otten, Brayden’s father.

Brave Like Me Foundation raised $5,000 to support the cause.

Students in the Queen City Book Bank book distribution program enjoy books received through Brayden’s Books.

“Brayden loved books, so this program is the perfect way to honor him and remind us that bravery takes many forms,” said Otten, the foundation’s chair.

Some of Brayden’s friends helped add bookplates to the front of each book so the recipient can write their name. They also placed stickers on the back of each book to indicate that it is part of Brayden’s Books.

Student Max Clark voiced excitement over the fact his friend’s memory will get to “live on through these books.”

“[Brayden] showed me what it meant to be brave and kind, and how to constantly have a positive impact on anyone around him,” Max said.

Using books to share Brayden’s story

The partnership with Queen City Book Bank is a natural fit. The book uses private donations and grant dollars to purchase and then distribute books to benefit the more than 30,000 under-resourced elementary students in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Brave Like Me accepts donations through its website for specific programs or for general organizational support.

Beyond the similar missions, Queen City Book Bank’s CEO, Michelle Otten Guenther, is Brayden’s aunt. She described her nephew as inspiring all who had the privilege to know him.

Children in the QCBB’s Curated Book Distribution Program started to receive Brayden’s Books in March during Brayden’s birthday month. Otten Guenther called it an honor to celebrate Brayden while sharing his story with the thousands of local children.

“He showed all of us what truly matters in life,” she said of Brayden. “We are kinder, more connected, and more loving because of him.

“Our hope is that this collection will teach the lessons Brayden taught all of us and children will remember these powerful lessons long after the books are read.”

Brayden’s Books


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