A 9-year-old girl has raised $47,000 by selling bracelets to get medical treatment for her best friend, who has a rare and dangerous skin disease.
Bethany Walker started making small rubber bracelets in the hopes she could sell them for a few dollars and raise money to help her friend Anne Marie Cox get a saltwater pool, she and her family said. In just 19 weeks the girl managed to raise enough money for the Cox family to construct a therapy pool in their backyard.
The good deed led to Bethany qualifying recently as a finalist in a national scholarship for community service sponsored by IZOD and J.C. Penney.
"I feel really great," Bethany told ABC News today about seeing her friend get to use the saltwater pool. She said their favorite things to do in the water are "race and play with the Barbies."
Anne Marie, 10, needed the pool to help cope with a rare genetic skin condition called epidermolysis bullosa, which causes blisters to appear on the skin due to a slight pressure or friction. The saltwater pool can help her blisters heal and ease her pain.
“Any kind of friction or trauma to the skin causes the skin to blister and come off. Being out in the summertime is just not going to happen,” Anne Marie’s mother Kandi Cox told ABC News. “She can’t go to public pools or anything like that. She really has to be in a protected environment.”
Early last year, Walker decided she wanted to make rubberband bracelets to help her friend after the family had little luck fundraising. Cox said she was touched by Bethany's offer but didn’t predict how big Bethany’s bracelets could get.
Neither “her mom nor I even fathomed what this little girl could do,” Cox said. “She started making bracelets and put them together with these little cards. ... I believe she raised that money in 19 weeks.”
After Walker raised about $47,000 through her Bracelets by Bethany Facebook page, she's started using the bracelets to fundraise for other causes as well. Construction on the new saltwater pool finished this June, Cox said.
“It’s been really neat watching that relationship cultivate with these two little girls who just have a love for one another,” Cox said, noting that for the first time Anne Marie has been able to take part in the same summer activities as her friends and family.
“We have a race, like who can swim the fastest,” Anne Marie told ABC affiliate KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Even though the pool is therapeutic to help ease Anne Marie’s stiff joints and pain from her scars, she told KATV her favorite part about having the pool is “spending time with my family.”