Reporter: Shannon Serpette
HENRY, Ill. – Faith Cravens of Henry had never heard of paracord jewelry until she saw a bracelet-making kit at a store late one night when she was shopping with her dad. She made one and then took a two-year break from bracelet making.
It wasn’t until she needed to raise money to attend a Bible camp called Camp Manitoumi in central Illinois that she decided to give bracelet making another try.
“I had already made enough money for me to attend camp after a couple of days,” Cravens, who is now 13 years old, said.
She saw some of her friends, however, were struggling in their attempts to raise the more than $200 each one needed to pay to attend the camp. While others were having car washes and other fundraisers, she kept making and selling bracelets until she raised enough to make sure no one would miss camp because they hadn’t raised enough money.
“That was all her idea,” Cravens’ mom, Joette, said. “Not a lot of 11 year olds think like that.”
Her friend, Georgia Sharwarko, 13, who also lives in Henry, was one of the people who benefited from Cravens’ hard work.
“When I signed up for camp, she had basically everybody covered from our church who wanted to go. Nobody had to pay because she had raised enough money,” Sharwarko said.
It’s been almost two years since her first fundraising efforts and Cravens hasn’t stopped making bracelets since then. She has also expanded her paracord product line – she now makes dog collars, watches, flip flops, backpack buddies and more. Her products cost between $3 and $20 per item.
All the money she raises is given to charity or is used to buy supplies for more bracelets. Although she and her mom don’t keep track, they estimate she has raised approximately $3,000.
With that money, she has helped a number of individuals and organizations. She has donated money to help with medical expenses for friends and family members. She has also given to a local food pantry and helped an area Catholic school that has been struggling financially.
Her latest donation was made to Freedom House, an Illinois agency that helps victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Cravens was at Freedom House one day dropping off an order of bracelets for an employee, when she realized she wanted to do something to help the people who were using the shelter.
“I saw the kids there playing and I felt bad for them,” Cravens said.
Cravens spent weeks making and selling her paracord products right before Christmas, raising about $300. She spent that money buying Christmas gifts for the 12 children who were staying in the shelter. She was able to fill Christmas stockings for each child, and give them three to four gifts each. She asked that any extra gifts be given to children who come into the shelter throughout the course of the year or children who have birthdays while they are staying at the shelter.
Her friends, the community and her teachers at school have been impressed by how she helps others by giving her time and money.
“I think it’s really nice of her, and it’s sweet and kind,” Sharwarko said.
Although she is busy with school and her extracurricular activities, Cravens has no desire to slow down her philanthropic work. In March, she’ll participate in a vendor show to help raise money for juvenile diabetes. Joette is signing her daughter up for craft and vendor shows throughout 2017.
So far, she has made thousands of bracelets, and she’s perfected the technique. She can make simple bracelets in 5 to 10 minutes each, while special orders or more complex items take longer to make.
Sharwarko, who wears a Hermoine Granger bracelet Cravens made for her, has no idea how Cravens makes the process look so effortless.
“I tried making one in fifth grade. It was taking too long,” she said.
While Cravens loves to help people, she isn’t as fond of being in the limelight. She has been featured in a local newspaper for her charitable work and she has appeared on television as well. Her language arts teacher at school has a newspaper clipping featuring Cravens on her classroom wall.
“I don’t really like the attention at times,” Cravens said. “I sometimes get shy.”
Her classmates, on the other hand, have no problems with Cravens being singled out at school for her kindness.
“We clapped for her,” Sharwarko said.
Credits: Photo/Shannon Serpette
Faith Cravens, with the support of her mother, Joette, spends much of her time making a line of paracord products to benefit area organizations. Cravens, who has raised and given away thousands of dollars, has no plans to stop her charitable efforts.