Three years ago, three young friends joined forces to raise money for local charities, while doing something they loved — making bracelets.
Never did the three Broward teenagers — one of whom attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — think that their nonprofit business would become a vehicle to help their community cope after the school shooting that left 17 people dead.
“I feel like when people purchase a bracelet or spirit band they just feel better about themselves — like they’ve done something to help the community and they definitely have,” said Sofia Rothenberg, 14, one of the girls behind 3 Heart Strings.
For Sofia, Hanna Guttentag and Stacey Gringauz, folding specially made MSD fabric and stringing beads has been healing, as well.
Instead of “sitting around and thinking about what happened,” the trio spends whatever free time they have filling the dozens of orders that have been pouring in. Since the shooting, they’ve had orders for more than 10,000 bracelets and spirit bands, the girls said. Their friends have pitched in to help.
“Channeling our energy into such a good cause, it just takes our mind off of it for a little bit and it makes us feel better,” said Stacey, 16, who attends North Broward Preparatory School.
“This our community,” she said.
Hanna, a 16-year-old Douglas sophomore, said she missed being at the school by five minutes, leaving early for an appointment. The bracelet-making has been “therapeutic.”
“The fact that it gives back to the people who were harmed makes it even better,” she said.
3 Hearts strings was born about three years ago after Sofia attended a Massachusetts sleep-away camp where Hanna’s mom, Mindy Guttentag, was the art director. The two began playing with the fabric and making bracelets.
Hanna’s mom came home with the idea and they decided it would be a great way to give back. Sofia, Hanna’s good friend, joined in and they asked their buddy, Stacey, to be part of the venture. They couldn’t come up with one charity to support, so they decided to pick a different one every month.
Hanna’s mom helped them get fabric and beads in bulk. The bracelets sell for $5 and about $4 goes toward the charity, the girls said. The other $1 goes toward the material costs. The girls don’t make any money personally.
Over the last three years, 3 Heart Strings has donated more than $4,000 to breast cancer research and $1,600 to pediatric cancer research, among other charities.
Deciding to make this month’s charity of choice the school shooting victims’ fund was a no-brainer, the girls said. They said will likely keep that going for “as long as people want bracelets.” They say they’ve banked more than $60,000 and will be working with Parkland to get the money dispersed to the victims. In addition to general, MSD bands, they have had requests to make specific ones for victims.
Chip Leon, a father who bought bracelets from the girls at a recent memorial for the victims, said he loved seeing how the children in the community have stepped up. He said the bracelet was especially meaningful.
“I’ll wear this until it falls off,” Leon said. “Why? Because it’s a constant reminder. It’s something that will remind me every day of always saying ‘I love you’ to my kids when I walk out the door.”