HILO — Like hundreds of other Big Island residents, Brooklynn Bennett was forced to leave her home when the Kilauea eruption began in lower Puna earlier this year.
Despite the difficulty of moving, and despite being only 8 years old, Bennett is making and selling handmade crafts to raise money for her fellow lava evacuees.
At the Hilo Farmers Market on Wednesday, Brooklynn and her mother, Brady Bennett, manned a booth selling “a craft and a treat” to those who donate $5.
Since moving to a Hilo apartment after their home on Pohoiki Road was inundated by lava, Brooklynn has spent four months making hundreds of crafts to sell around the holiday season. Most of the crafts are simple ornaments adorned with sea shells, but the story surrounding them attracts buyers hoping to help a family affected by lava.
Brady said the money benefits the McCarroll family, which includes Brooklynn’s best friend who was forced to relocate to Texas with her family after her home was destroyed during the eruption.
“We thought about finding a way to spread the money around all the lava victims, but this is what her heart was set on,” Brady said.
Brady, who worked as a Realtor before the eruption, said Brooklyn felt like she had to help her friend because “she knew what they were going through.”
While the amount of money is slight — Brady said Brooklynn has raised about $300 over the course of several market visits — it will accompany more than $12,000 that has been donated to Brooklynn’s friend’s family since August via crowdfunding website GoFundMe.
Brooklynn has participated in craft fairs frequently in the past — she guessed she has done them for “five years” — and said she wants to be an artist when she grows up. While her art is simple, her story and the sign proclaiming that proceeds benefit lava victims have helped drive sales.
Sales were particularly effective Tuesday, when Brooklynn set up shop for cruise ship passengers. Brady said dozens of passengers asked questions about the lava, with many making donations without asking for crafts in return.
“It was a good lesson for her, to meet all these people from all over the country,” Brady said.
Brooklynn said she had talked with her friends about selling crafts to raise money together, but Brady noted that for many children who hadn’t experienced the upheaval of the eruption firsthand, it might feel less urgent to give back to the victims.
After the holidays are over, Brooklynn doesn’t know whether she will continue to sell crafts, although Brady said she still has a significant amount of unsold crafts remaining. Brady noted that Brookynn’s responsibilities as a third-grader will interfere with the crafting and selling process as school resumes.
However, until Christmas, the two can be seen at the Hilo and Maku‘u Farmer’s Markets, which Brady thanked profusely for allowing them to set up shop.
Donations to the McCarroll family can be made at tinyurl.com/yaunslhx.