A five-year-old Blackfalds boy would rather sell ice-cream cones for charity than be a media darling.
But Haylen Astalos is learning something about fame after his Herculean feat of raising $4,400 — so far — for Ronald McDonald House made newscasts across North America.
Haylen was interviewed by New York City’s Good News Network, as well as CTV’s Canada AM, a Montreal-based crew making a video for Ronald McDonald House, and other news outlets.
It’s “still surreal to me,” that media people would fly across Canada just to meet Haylen, said his mother, Tabitha Astalos, who answered all the questions for this Advocate article.
She believes her son learned a variety of important lessons this summer — from the ideas of giving and receiving and “how powerful it is to share,” to math, social and communications skills. That last one was a steep learning curve.
At first Haylen was excited about appearing on television, said Tabitha — until he discovered he had to wear a microphone, which he didn’t like.
And then the cameras started rolling — and “he said nothing!” she added, with a laugh.
Although she believes Haylen has been dealing with the media attention well enough, “to be honest,” she said, “he just wants to sell ice cream.”
That’s what Haylen continues to do. He’s still fundraising for Red Deer’s Ronald McDonald House by selling $2 frozen treats from a wooden stand he helped design and build with his dad, Ryan Astalos.
On most days the painted stand, resembling Lucy’s psychiatry booth from the Peanuts comic strip, is set up on the driveway of the family’s home on Cyprus Road in Blackfalds.
The altruistic idea was sparked by Haylen’s fifth birthday party last September. Guests were asked to bring two $5 bills instead of a toy. “Kids these days have too many toys,” said Tabitha, who told Haylen he could keep half the money and suggested he give the other half to charity.
Her son ended up purchasing a radio-controlled monster truck for himself and donating $100 to Ronald McDonald House. Tabitha said he picked that non-profit as soon as he heard it allows parents to stay close by while their sick kids are getting treated at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “He was very excited to tour the house and learn more.”
Haylen, who also collects bottles for the charity, loves ice cream and he loves selling.
When an interviewer asked him what he wants to do when he grows up, he responded, “Ice-cream selling. I am going to have an ice-cream car when I’m bigger and I have my driver’s licence.”
He’s described by his mother as “a kind-hearted, loving boy, who knows how blessed he is. … We are beyond proud of him. … Everything he does is because he wants to and he is always so excited to do it.”
Ronald McDonald House is very grateful to have such an enthusiastic donor — and one who’s so exceptionally young. Larry Mathieson, executive director of the Southern and Central Alberta facilities, believes Haylen is the youngest benefactor the charity has received money from. All of the donations will go to programs and services at the Red Deer house.
Haylen has stated his intention to wind down ice-cream sales this fall — but to start up again next summer.