Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, 7 year old Hayley Orlinsky has been making colorful rubber band bracelets that she sells for $3 to $5 each. Hayley’s initial goal was to raise $200 as a fundraiser to buy personal protective equipment for a children’s hospital. So far, the endeavor has generated nearly $20,000 for Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, prompting praise and purchases from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Broadway actor Miguel Cervantes and her beloved White Sox.
It all started when she heard news stories about PPE shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic and was inspired to help. Hayley chose Lurie Children’s Hospital because she spent the early days of her life there due to a breathing problem. The money Hayley raises goes directly to Lurie through a fundraising office. Lurie hasn’t had any problems getting gear and has used the money to pay for masks, goggles, face shields, gloves and other items for medical workers and visitors, said Tracey McCusker, an associate director at the hospital’s foundation.
While many enterprising young people are raising funds for causes close to the heart, the amount Hayley has brought in is unusual. “Her fundraiser is exponentially more than our typical kid fundraiser,” said McCusker who estimates $500 to $1,000 is about average. It’s hard for the second grader to grasp how much more $20,000 is by comparison — but she figures it’s a lot. “It’s more than the tooth fairy gives,” she said. “I want to do it until coronavirus is over,” she said. “It feels like I’m helping a lot of people.”
Her mother, children’s book author Lori Orlinsky, estimates the effort has created roughly 8,000 bracelets, most of them made by Hayley. The fundraiser has been a family project: A 4-year-old sister helps organize the bands by color and both parents help mail the finished products nationwide. Family friend Alysson Bourque, who lives in Sunset, Louisiana, purchased some before joining the project, looping bracelets with her own children. “We were excited that bracelets were a symbol of hope and goodwill and brought people together in a time where people feel disconnected,” said Bourque, who also writes children’s books.
Hayley also introduced the idea at Apachi Day Camp, a summer program she’s attended for years. After Hayley’s pitch, campers of all ages were on board. “It just became a thing that everyone wanted to do,” said Beth Miller, a camp director. “It bonded the kids.”