When Clara Henry was 3, she fell off her bed and hit the corner of a table in her room, breaking her skull in three places. She underwent surgery and stayed at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital for a week. Recovery took a year.
When she thinks back on that time, Clara, now 7 and a second-grader at Centennial Lane Elementary School in Ellicott City, remembers that it was "sort of scary," that she wore a paper gown and that she had a homemade blanket donated by a group called Project Linus.
"It was such a comfort for her," said Clara's mother, Kim Henry. "I think it stuck in her head."
Clara, along with her younger sister Amelia, 4, and her classmate Nina Wang, 7, have found a way to help others at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, which provides life-saving care to children and young adults. Clara, Nina and Amelia are creating colorful bracelets that they are selling for $3 each, and giving all proceeds to the hospital. So far they have raised more than $700. Clara wants the money to be used on items that help children get through the hospital experience, such as toys.
Sitting in her bedroom listening to her mother talk, Clara announces a new benchmark for the project, known as Clara Cares. "My goal is to get to $2,000," she said. Her mother, hearing this goal for the first time, gently asks Clara if she is serious about it, then agrees to it. "All right. That will be the goal," she said.
Clara said she has wanted to do something for the children in the unit since her own experience there. "I've been looking for a way to raise money," she said. For her seventh birthday, Clara was given a kit for making potholders from loops of yarn. Her mom showed her how to make bracelets using the same loops.
Most days after school, the three girls disappear into Clara's room to make bracelets, Henry said. The three sit on Clara's bed, sifting through bags of the fabric loops, choosing colors that work well together. "Nine, 10, 11," counts Clara one afternoon. "I need a red for the last one."
It takes 12 loops of yarn and a weaving process that involves stretching the loops over and under their outstretched fingers to create the multicolored bracelets, which adorn the wrists of all three girls and Henry. "The first time I did it, it was really complicated," said Clara. "But after I practiced it was easy."
When the school year started, the girls gave the bracelets to their friends. They soon realized the bracelets would "be a great fund-raiser," said Henry. Clara, Amelia and Nina even create "special order" bracelets with requested color combinations, though Henry noted they can't accommodate all requests for Ravens and Orioles colors because the bags of fabric loops don't contain many purple and orange ones.
Henry said the idea for Clara Cares came entirely from her daughter, but Henry and her husband, Matt Henry, are handling the details, such as keeping track of expenditures and donations and deciding how often to donate to Johns Hopkins.
The fact that Clara is behind the idea, said Kim, "makes it very special and very exciting."
To order bracelets, go to berrybestmoms.com and search for "Clara Cares" or call 914-645-0177.