On a mission to remember a friend

Beth Sergent

January 29, 2014

POINT PLEASANT — “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

That quote is attributed to author C.S. Lewis but could be applied to the survivors of the friends of Braxton Smith, an 11-year old who recently passed away after being injured in a house fire.

Caiden Young is an 11-year old classmate, and friend, of Braxton’s at Point Pleasant Intermediate School. Caiden and his classmates are processing the harsh, unexpected loss of their friend right now.

Young said it was “hard” to think of Braxton dying.

For a few days, classmates put a note on Braxton’s desk, and a flower, saying no one was to sit in it - it was empty but reserved. Braxton’s classmates have also written letters to his family and decorated their lockers with memorials to the boy who is described as smart and funny.

“He was really funny,” Caiden said, telling the story of how when the boys were in fifth grade, Braxton carted an orange around, calling it his wife, creatively naming it Georgianna. Caiden smiled when he recalled Braxton later got another orange, calling it Bonita, saying he had cheated on Georgianna.

“He was very smart,” Caiden said. “When the teacher told us to quiet down, he did.”

Being smart, knowing when to quiet down, having the imagination to turn an orange into a wife for a laugh - all are endearing and infinite qualities to those in intermediate school and beyond.

Another one of Braxton’s qualities was an inexplicable love of the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, Braxton was unable to see his team secure a place in this weekend’s super bowl. In the days that followed Braxton’s passing, Caiden had an idea to honor his friend - a big idea. He sat down and wrote a letter to talk show host Ellen Degeneres, asking for her help in getting Braxton recognized at the Super Bowl in some way. Here is Caiden’s letter:

Hi Ellen, my name is Caiden Young. I’m writing you because I have a favor to ask you. January 18 2014 one of my best friends passed away in a house fire. Him, his sister and brother were all trapped inside and had to run through fire to get out. They were all burned 90-100 percent of their bodies. As a results of the burns, Braxton passed away on Jan. 19 and his sister passed away Jan. 20. His brother Tre is still fighting for his life but is stable. Our community of Point Pleasant, WV has been putting together clothes drives, fundraisers, singing benefits, donations at banks, etc… Even though we are a small community we have pulled together and are trying to help this family out as much as possible. The reason why I’m writing you is because the Super Bowl is coming up and the Seahawks is Braxton J. Smith’s favorite football team and I thought maybe they could have a moment of silence and show a picture of Braxton. I didn’t know how to go about doing this but I knew if anyone could get it done it would be you Ellen. I know this would mean so much to his family and friends. We all miss him and today I’m wearing blue in honor of him because that was his favorite color!! Thanks for any help with this. Sincerely Caiden Young

Although Caiden hasn’t heard from Ellen, yet, his letter posted on the Facebook wall of her television show is receiving a massive amount of attention. According to Caiden’s mom Amy Donohue, it had over 3,000 likes and around 300 comments, many from strangers. Amy says she’s receiving messages about it from those complete strangers offering their support.

There’s definitely some momentum in the air for this idea because also on Wednesday, a Smith family representative reported Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll actually called Braxton’s dad, William Smith, to speak with him and offer condolences.

Caiden said Braxton was definitely the biggest Seahawks fan, saying he was always making bets with friends that his team would win. Caiden said Braxton had bet a pack of football cards with a friend that the Seahawks would beat the San Francisco 49ers but never got to collect on that bet.

Although typically a Steelers fan, Caiden says he’s hoping for a Seahawks victory on Sunday. He said in honor of his friend, he’ll be watching the game with some popcorn - a tradition of Braxton’s.

The Ellen Degeneres Show has a special link for those wishing to send her an email at Like Caiden did, viewers can post comments on her Facebook page as well - including a copy of Caiden’s letter printed in this article. The Seattle Seahawks have a variety of ways to be contacted via the team’s webpage at

Whether or not Caiden gets his wish of having his friend recognized at the Super Bowl in some way or not, Braxton’s memory will stay reserved in a special place for Caiden and others - like that empty desk in the classroom.