The Ottumwa Courier

April 9, 2014

Caring Kids

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Five fourth-graders didn't need grownups to show them it feels good to help others. They found out firsthand.

"I wanted to do a project with the bracelets I make. And it's better to help people than to just do a random project," Kennedy Hugen said at Eisenhower Elementary School on Wednesday. "Cancer popped into my head; my cousin's friend has cancer. They're in first grade."

Maybe she could make something and donate it to young cancer patients.

"I texted Elaine and she said since bracelets are the new big thing, it's a good idea."

Fellow fourth-grader Elaine Prose first checked with her mom.

"I love to make rubber-band bracelets," Elaine said.

The decorative items are made by weaving together elastic bands to form a pattern. On one, a base of white elastics was topped with red and blue elastics, making a patriotic statement for creative kids.

"I asked what they were doing," said another student, Arin McMullin. "They said they were making bracelets for cancer, and I said, 'Can I be in it?'"

"Me too!" said Rachel Carlson. "I love making bracelets."

And she knows a youngster with cancer. Rachel wanted to participate, too.

Elaine felt they could get help from Principal Dana Warnecke. So the girls got her input. She told them they could certainly work on that project at recess and other non-class periods. She also got them some paper for posters, and suggested that rather than just giving each patient a bracelet, the girls give them away in exchange for a donation. Then, they could buy things for kids in the hospital, things like crayons, personal hygiene items and crafts, including the loom used to make more advanced rubber-band bracelet designs.

The principal was also able to help find a new recruit, what Warnecke referred to as their "expert."

"I was invited," said Eisenhower fourth-grader Lucas Barnes, who watches videos on the Internet to learn how to make cool bracelets. "They needed help making the bracelets. I've made tons. It's fun to make them, and my mom says it's really good for your brain."

Elaine said if she's mad at her sister, making a bracelet helps calm her.

Not every design requires a loom. The kids mentioned several including the fact, said Rachel, that "you can do an inverted fish tail with just your fingers."

The various designs are now displayed at the Eisenhower office. The kids started accepting donations for the bracelets on Tuesday. By Wednesday, they'd raised around $50. They'll help kids admitted to University of Iowa pediatric cancer unit.

"It's remarkable. We have students willing to give of their talent and time in order to help others," Warnecke said. "That makes it so easy to want to help them."

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark