When 78-year-old Maverine Reel died of ovarian cancer in 2011, her granddaughter, Amy Roberts, vowed to raise awareness about cancer and committed herself to raising funds for research.
In 2012, Roberts became involved with Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, in its inaugural year in Ballantyne.
“I got my whole family involved,” Roberts said.
That included her 10-year-old daughter, Kendall, a fifth-grader at Ballantyne Elementary School.
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Roberts, 37, never expected that the one who raised the most money would be Kendall’s friend, Lily Sanders, a fifth-grader at Collinswood Language Academy.
The two 10-year-olds take lyrical and jazz dance classes at Rhythm Dance Studio in Matthews and have been friends for two years.
Lily, who recently took up making bracelets on a Rainbow Loom, made Roberts a teal cancer-ribbon bracelet in honor of Roberts’ grandmother.
“I started tearing up when she gave it to me,” Roberts said. “I always wear it.”
Lily saw that the bracelet, which she’d researched online and followed an instruction video on how to make into the shape of the cancer ribbon, was a hit.
“When I saw her reaction, I thought other people would like these bracelets and they would buy them,” Lily said.
Lily told her mother, Karen Enriquez-Sanders, 32, that she wanted to sell her Rainbow Loom bracelets to help fight cancer.
It was October, so Lily decided to make pink ribbon bracelets in honor of breast cancer awareness month. She planned to sell the bracelets for $2 each, and set a goal of $200.
Enriquez-Sanders feared the goal was too ambitious. “That’s a lot of bracelets,” she recalls thinking.
Lily devoted all her free time to making bracelets. In the time between dance classes and soccer practices and homework, she used her Rainbow Loom.
“My hand was hurting a lot because I made so many,” Lily said, “but I knew there were a lot of people who need help, so I knew I couldn’t stop.”
Orders poured in, some from as far as Florida, where Lily’s 74-year-old grandmother, Carol Sanders, lives.
“I am so proud of her,” Sanders said. “No one in our family has even had cancer. She is just that passionate.”
Lily made 200 bracelets, and some sold for more than the $2 price tag. She raised $540, all of which she handed over to Kendall and Amy Roberts for their Relay for Life fundraising efforts.
Lily also has inspired Kendall, who has started making things out of duct tape, like pens and bows, to sell.
“I was impressed,” Kendall said, “I felt like I could be more involved with fundraising because someone my age earned so much money. I can do it too.”
Lily said she plans to continue making bracelets every October, but she may make some additions next year.
“I’m thinking about adding charms,” she said.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.relayforlife.org/Ballantynenc for information about Relay for Life of Ballantyne and its annual overnight celebration May 29-30 at the Morrison YMCA.