What began as a simple hobby for Cailie Zeidler has transformed into an artistic, therapeutic and charitable endeavor.
Under the banner of Cailie's Creations, the 10-year-old Timonium resident and her family make beaded bracelets, small decorative signs and painted rocks, which they sell and then donate the proceeds to Kids Helping Hopkins.
"I make the beads because I love crafts and I love helping people," Cailie said.
Cailie's countless hours of crafting and her selfless donations to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center earned her the 2012 Kids Helping Hopkins Children's Champion Award, which was given at a countywide event Oct. 25 at Cockeysville Middle School.
Cailie's mother, Timonium Elementary School teacher Shannon Zeidler, said her daughter constantly was making things with her hands, beginning with swirly jewelry out of normal clay.
"It never dried, but it was coming out really cool," she said.
They eventually bought clay that could be baked, and Cailie began what would be an endless process of rolling, twisting and molding the beads that would become the centerpiece of her bracelets.
"Anything that has the clay consistency, she loves, like the dough and the clay," Zeidler said. "She makes a lot of bread. She never stops using her hands."
Over time, it became not only a passion, but a form of therapy for Cailie. Zeidler said her daughter's anxiety began to manifest itself in preschool and has been "so debilitating" throughout her life.
Cailie still doesn't like going to loud places — an aversion that manifested itself briefly at the Kids Helping Hopkins Award Ceremony, where a steel drum band played over the hum of the crowd for much of the event.
But improvements have been noticeable since she began working with her hands on the bracelets and other art projects, including new additions to the Cailie's Creations line and a two-story, fully furnished dollhouse in her basement art room built from scratch by her and her father, Joe.
Zeidler said she thought her own butterflies were normal until she was 38 years old, and in facilitating her daughter's art, she aims to give Cailie outlets for anxiety that weren't available to her.
"I wanted to do everything I could to help her now that she's young, so that she learns healthy ways to cope with her anxieties and her fears. This is a very healthy way," Zeidler said. "She feels very good about where the money is going."
The plan wasn't always to donate the proceeds to the Hopkins Children's Center. Interest in the bracelets began when Zeidler wore purple beaded bracelets to school on Baltimore Ravens-inspired Purple Fridays, and the family also sold bracelets at past editions of the Ridgely Craft Fair.
"It almost felt funny, keeping all the money, so we decided where we should donate some," Zeidler said.
Although she allowed her daughter to keep some of the money to show that her hard work paid off, Zeidler suggested they donate the rest to the Hopkins Children's Center.
"I told her there are kids in Hopkins hospital who don't have the choice to leave," Zeidler said. "She can sleep in her own bed, and she can talk to me about (her anxiety). Some of these kids are so sick they can't even talk, or can't sit up, or can't be home. That really affected her and helped her understand it a little bit more, that she can live with this and do things like this to help her through it."
After the first set of sales, Zeidler wrote a check for $350 to Kids Helping Hopkins. At the award ceremony last month, they matched that total in just a couple of hours — not counting the $100 donation they received from an attendee.
Anita Rozenel, co-founder of Kids Helping Hopkins, said Cailie stood out from the other nominees in that her bracelets weren't simply an activity, but "works of heart."
"It's so obvious that she's so very invested in this," said Rozenel, a former county music teacher who founded the organization with her husband, Sam, in memory of a former student. "This is something I think is going to be a continued effort on her part to reach out and help others."
That effort continues at the Ridgely Craft Fair on Saturday, Nov. 10, an event at which the entire family — including 8-year-old Jack, who pitches in when demand is high — will be able to join the fun.
"We have about 30 bracelets left," Zeidler said. "We have (Election Day) off, so I said 'Start making beads, and I'll string them.' "
Of all the colorful choices shoppers will have on Saturday, Zeidler knows one set will be particularly in demand: "We need more Ravens ones."