Adopted boy, 11, mows lawns all summer to buy tombstone for father he never knew
This North Dakota boy never had the chance to meet his biological father, but he still wanted the chance to honor his memory in a meaningful way.
By mowing lawns all summer, 11-year-old Brandon Bakke of Fargo was able to save up enough money to purchase a tombstone for his late father's grave.
"That was his way of connecting with his dad," his mother Brenda Bakke told InsideEdition.com.
According to Bakke, Brandon has always been curious about his biological father, so when she finally received more information about the family in 2015, she began reaching out to anyone with the same last name on Facebook.
A year later, she received a response from Brandon's biological sister.
"At first, I was really really nervous," Bakke told InsideEdition.com. "When you go through adoption, you don't know the whole story of both sides. I didn't know how she would accept us, or accept Brandon."
But his sister Tiffany, 31, quickly eased their nerves when she told them the entire family was equally as interested in meeting them. In fact, they had known about Brandon all his life.
Unfortunately, Tiffany also had some bad news. His biological father, Terrance, had died the year before from an asthma attack. He was 56.
When Brandon said he wanted to visit his grave in Chicago, Tiffany welcomed the visit, but warned that the family had not been able to afford a gravestone.
"They were very low on funds just to bury him," Bakke said. "She wanted to prepare him ahead of time there was no marker. There was no proof necessarily his dad is there."
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He let the thought go, but a few days later, he approached his mother with $175 he had saved up from mowing lawns and presented it to his mother, asking whether that would be enough to purchase a gravestone for his dad.
"It really bothered him that somebody, especially his father, was buried and he didn't have any way for anyone to know who he was," Bakke said. "He wanted to do something about it."
When Brandon, who has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, discovered a tombstone would cost much more than that, he quickly spread the word about his lawn mowing service, and worked all summer to save up nearly $400 for the memorial.
Inspired by his work ethic, the store gifted him a more expensive stone for the money he provided and even let him include the design the boy created — two hands, offering a bowl of soup, inspired by his biological father's generous spirit, and love for cooking.
Two weeks ago, Brandon and his mother traveled to Chicago to meet his biological father's family at the cemetery. Together, they put his father's gravestone into the ground.
"[Brandon] was really sad about losing his dad," Bakke told InsideEdition.com, "but he was so happy to know he was wanted, and thought of, and loved by so many people."
Inspired by his success in contributing to his biological father's memory, Brandon has since started a lawn mowing and snow blowing business, called "Mowing and Blowing for a Purpose," to raise money for other families who can't afford tombstones for their loved ones.
"It was really this summer that he took that drive to do something more purposeful and meaningful in his life," his mother said.