Photo by Diane Cox
EAST ALTON | Not only has little Hayden been a inspiration to the community, he also has helped make a neighborhood a safer place.
The former home of the Toddle Towne Learning Center at 229 Whitelaw Avenue in East Alton was raided on Oct. 2, 2015, following weeks of investigation by East Alton Police Department after tips came in that methamphetamine was being produced on the property. The residents charged had no affiliation with the day care center, which had closed its doors before the current residents had moved onto the property.
To the relief of neighbors, the building’s owners donated the structure and lot to the Village of East Alton, and the structure was demolished the morning of June 15. As nearby residents watched the house come apart piece by piece, they were also excited about who came along to help.
East Alton resident Jonathan Brown’s six-year-old son Hayden was diagnosed in 2015 with Metavhromatic Leukodystrophy, a genetic condition that occurs when there is an accumulation of fats in cells. The condition affects cells in the nervous system that produce myelin, the substance that insulates and protects nerves. Patients develop loss of sensation in the extremities, incontinence, seizures, paralysis, an inability to speak, blindness, and hearing loss.
Brown organized a public page on Facebook titled “Love for Hayden Bently Brown” and asked people to suggest things a five-year-old would want to do as a part of a bucket list. The Village of East Alton answered the call in allowing Hayden to participate in the destruction of the former Toddle Towne by wearing a hard hat, a safety vest and sitting in some of the big machinery used by Supreme Trucking and Excavating LLC out of Roxana.
“You could tell that Hayden really had some fun with taking part in this project,” East Alton Code Enforcement Officer Roger Werts said. “Our building and property maintenance inspector, Joshua Ruot helped Hayden put the hard hat and vest on and he didn’t want to take it off again.
“He was able to sit in the excavator for a while, but it’s really hot this morning so he and his father, Jonathan didn’t stay too long. He didn’t feel too well in this heat.”
After Toddle Towne closed its doors as a day care center, the building was sold under contract for deed. Following the execution of an issued warrant, two men and one woman was arrested and charged and the property was returned to the previous owner.
“When the sellers received the property back, they felt it was the in the community’s best interest to donate the lot to the village,” Werts said. “We will eventually build an affordable home unit on this lot. Currently we have about 14 lots that will be developed in the next few years.”
Werts said the funding for the home demolition was provided by a grant from the Madison County Department of Community Development, operated under Director Frank Miles.
“We hope this demolition will send a message to people that the Village of East Alton and the police will not mess around,” Werts said. “We won’t welcome people into our neighborhoods who are going to participate in this type of activity. This location will become an affordable home for a family, close to schools and parks instead of a location to bring problems to our community.”
For information on Hayden Bentley Brown and suggest ideas for his bucket list, please visit the “Love for Hayden Bentley Brown” page on Facebook. For information on the Village of East Alton Building and Zoning department, visit the website at www.eastaltonvillage.org or call (618) 259-1185.