Jeff Reinartz: Boy weaves determination, compassion into bracelets
Today I'm going to tell you about a pretty special young man who has a mission. He is eight-year-old Michael Anderson, and he lives in Stewartville with his parents, Tim and Bobbi Anderson.
His mission is to help the victims of tornado-stricken parts of Oklahoma, and he does that by selling what he calls "survivor bracelets," which he makes with a little help from his mom.
I started seeing these bracelets appearing around work a couple of weeks ago, including one on the wrist of my boss, so I asked a person what they were, and she pointed me to the cubicle of Michael's grandma, Laurie Bursiek, of rural Grand Meadow. Laurie filled me in on what Michael was up to.
I didn't get to talk to the enterprising young man himself, because he was on a weekend fishing trip with his dad, but his mother told me how Michael got the idea to help the tornado victims.
"He's always been a crafty kid," Bobbi told me over the phone, pointing out that he makes potholders, too. "We had been following the story about the tornadoes on the news, and Michael became really emotional seeing the images of the devastation. He's a very sensitive boy."
Sensitive indeed. For about four months, Michael had been making bracelets using an apparatus made by a friend of the family. After seeing the stories of the Oklahoma tornado victims' struggles he came up with the idea of making more of his bracelets, selling them and sending a portion of the proceeds to Oklahoma.
"He wanted to do what he could do," his mom said, telling me how excited Michael became about his idea. "He really makes us proud."
Bobbi helps Michael by cutting the string, called "parachute cord," and burning the ends to prevent fraying, and Michael takes it from there, weaving the cord between the two buckle pieces. In a few minutes he has a bracelet.
"He can make about 20 to 25 bracelets an hour," Bobbi told me with a healthy dose of pride in her voice. "He sells them for five dollars each, and he's already made almost $500."
And Michael isn't only helping tornado victims with his bracelets. They're called survivor bracelets because the parachute cord they're made of is very strong. The bracelets, if necessary, can be unraveled to be used for, say, a tourniquet, in the event of an emergency. Bobbi said the women's size bracelet unravels to a length of about six and a half feet.
Michael has been able to focus more of his time on his enterprise since school let out for the summer, which Bobbi says has been nice. "He used to have to get his school work done before sitting down to make bracelets, but now I don't have to be such a Nazi about homework."
Good thing. We can't have Michael, who will turn 9 in a few days, messing around with stuff like homework. The people in Oklahoma need his bracelet-making skills. And from what I've seen around my workplace, there is a pretty good-sized market out there.
Just the same, it sounds to me like Michael has earned a little relaxation time with his dad.