There’s no age too young to start giving back to the community around you, and nine-year-old Rylee Jones is a perfect example.
In addition to being the top junior fundraiser for the Ride for STARS in the south part of the County of Stettler, Jones has also spent the lead up to the past three Christmases crafting away and selling the results to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation and, this year, the Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer.
The young girl made bracelets, necklaces, earrings and little wooden ornaments for this year’s Santa Day Market in Byemoor, where she rented her own table for the first time. In the previous years, she’s used a corner of her mother, Paige Jones’ table.
Jones raised nearly $450 at the market this year, money that she and Paige took to Red Deer’s Ronald McDonald House in early January.
“This is just how she is,” Paige said of her daughter. “She just wants to give back.”
The experience was an overwhelming one for the young girl, who was awed by the size of the Ronald McDonald House in Red Deer.
“Before, we used to mail the donations to Make A Wish,” explained Paige. “This made it much more real.”
A photo taken by Jones’ mother puts it into perspective, the young girl is absolutely tiny against the front of the house in Red Deer, which houses parents and siblings of children who are sick and in the hospital.
“It was really big,” Jones said.
The donations for Make A Wish had always been sent in through the mail, so being able to make the donation in person seemed to add a new dimension to the work Jones has been doing, her mother said.
“It became much more real to her to see it in person, see how her donations are helping,” she said.
The decision to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House was an easy one, and one that had a personal connection for the family. Not only has friends of the family had the need of the services offered by the house, so has the Jones’ family.
“My parents spent a lot of time at the Ronald McDonald House when I was young,” explained Paige. “I was in a terrible car fire.”
The burns required the young Paige to be in the hospital for quite some time, plus repeat visits as she grew up. The Ronald McDonald House was there for her mother and father, providing them with a place to stay as well as emotional support from staff and other residents.
“It was wonderful for them,” Paige recalled. “They weren’t ‘the parents of the sick kid’ there and everyone was able to help.”
The story of her grandparents’ time at the Ronald McDonald House was well known to Jones, so this year, when deciding who to donate the proceeds of her sales, she had little trouble picking a recipient.
“My friend taught me how to make the bracelets,” Jones said. “It’s just with these elastic bands. Mom got this little wood burning kit thing, and it had these ends and we made pictures on them – we put pictures on them and burned them in.”
The items for sale were augmented by necklaces and rings, and some earrings.
“I ordered in a kit for her,” Paige said. “Then we just started making stuff.”
All year long, Jones works on crafting the items for the market, but it’s in the last few weeks before that she really hunkers down to get everything finished, her mother said.
“You won’t find her not working on something,” she said.
This year, little brothers Rowdy, 7, and Memphis, 6, helped make the bracelets, while Paige helped with the wood burning on the ornaments. The bracelets, earrings and rings were all made by the nine-year-old.
“They wanted to get involved too,” Paige said. “That’s just the way they are. They all want to give back.”
Paige said the community has rallied behind her daughter, supporting her booth at the market every year.
“People know what she’s up to now so they make sure to come buy something,” Paige said. “We couldn’t do this without their support and we’re very grateful.”