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Matthew Broadley is collecting new and used educational toys as part of an honor society project. The toys will be donated to a Ukraine orphanage he grew up in until he was adopted at 18 months of age
WAYNE - Twelve-year old Mathew Broadley has a lot to be thankful for and is now paying it forward, as they say, by giving back to a Ukrainian orphanage he once lived at.
Broadley's story dates back to when he was a baby residing at Our Children, an orphanage located in Donetsk, a large city near the Kalmius River. Due to economic hardship there was a shortage of "educational toys" to stimulate the brain for Broadley and the other children to play with so he was considered "under-developed" for a child his age.
When his parents, James and Mindy, adopted him at 18 months of age, it was noticeable that Broadley was a bit slower than other babies comparable to his age, averaging to that of a 9-month old.
"I wasn't as quick as other kids my age but I was smart. There just wasn't any stimulation," he said.
Broadley was also born cross-eyed, a situation that has required him to undergo two eye surgeries after his adoption to correct the condition known as esotropia.
"Now I can see better and my eyes aren't crossed anymore," he said.
Broadley resides in the Packanack Lake neighborhood of Wayne and attends an online school called Laurel Springs Academy, where he is now a member of the National Junior Honor Society program.
"I'm actually two years ahead in school too," he said.
Broadley notes reading and traveling as two of the top stimulators that have helped him overcome his challenges. He says, it's fun to read, noting that even fiction can be fun to learn.
And he's visited 15 countries with his parents including Italy, Mexico, Japan, England, the emirate of Dubai, and South Africa, where his dad is from. His favorites, Broadley says, were Japan and South Africa purely for their culture.
"My dad's side is from South Africa so I've been there quite a few times and learning about the culture. And safaris are a lot of fun," Broadley said.
His mom is originally from California, and Broadley moved out there for two years when he was 9 years old. While on the West Coast, he soaked in as much of the California traditions as he could and took surfing lessons.
"Surfing is definitely a lot of fun but it's also very hard especially balancing on the board and getting the timing down," he added.
Despite his global trekking, Broadley has never gone back to his homeland but says someday he would like to return. He's seen videos of himself as a baby at the orphanage which his parents obtained during the adoption process.
So in an effort to give back, his community service project entails collecting new and used educational-type toys - ages birth to 3 - to ship to the orphanage to help children living there in hopes of stimulating their brains so they don't experience what he had to.
Broadley is also accepting monetary donations to help offset the cost to ship to the Ukraine.
Anyone interested in joining Broadley in his effort of goodwill can mail toys and checks to 18 Magnolia Place in Wayne, NJ 07470. The deadline would be sometime in December, as Broadley is looking to begin mailing before the holiday.