- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

THOMASVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Nine-year-old Zoey Craven is in the rainbow business - making them, and sharing them.

Zoey, a third-grader at Friendship Elementary School, is the face behind Zoey’s Friends, a local campaign to send Rainbow Loom bracelets - and lots of ‘em - to sick children at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to let them know someone cares about them.

So far, Zoey and friends have sent more than 120 of the popular, colorful bracelets to each of the two hospitals - and they’re busy making more.

“This started right before Christmas,” recalls Zoey’s mom, Melanie Craven. “Zoey told me she wanted to make Rainbow Loom bracelets for kids at St. Jude and challenge her friends to make them, too, so the kids at the hospital would have a brighter day.”

A Rainbow Loom, for the uninitiated, is a plastic toy loom that’s used to weave small, colorful rubber bands into bracelets, which can then be decorated with charms. The toy loom is especially popular among elementary-age children - who love to make the bracelets and swap them with their friends - and it won several Toy of the Year awards this year.

Each bracelet takes about 10 to 15 minutes to make, according to Craven.

Zoey’s a lot faster than I am - she can make one in about 10 minutes,” the mother says.

Zoey received a nice thank-you card from several nurses at Brenner, where the bracelets have become a favorite part of visits for the hospital’s childhood cancer patients.

“They get an IV before they receive chemo, so right before their IV they get to pick a bracelet,” Craven explains. “Now the nurses say the kids look forward to coming back so they can get another bracelet.”

The bracelets have also been well-received at St. Jude, where they prompted a thank-you letter and a wish list of toys the hospital would like to have for its patients. Zoey and her mom launched a sale of “Zoey’s Friends” T-shirts to raise money for the purchase of some of the items on the list.

In the meantime, Zoey has been soliciting friends to help with her Rainbow Loom project.

“She’s recruited the girls on her softball team, and they’re all busy making bracelets,” Craven says. “The girls were so excited to help. We told them about it, and two days later one of the girls (Lizzie Bryant) gave me 60 bracelets. I was bagging bracelets all night.”

That’s one of the stipulations about donating the bracelets to the children’s hospitals - they have to be put in sealable plastic bags, so they’ll remain germ- and dust-free, Craven explains.

In addition to Zoey’s softball teammates, another big contributor has been Shelby Greer, whose mother works with Craven at Guilford County EMS.

“We’re still trying to get more people who would like to help,” Craven says. “We’re trying to make as many bracelets as possible.”

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