Some friends introduced Erin to the concept of making lanyards with jewelry wire and glass beads last fall when she was having in-patient chemo. Erin thought they would make great Christmas gifts for teachers. Unfortunately, each one took longer than she thought to make, so we had to fall back on a different plan for teacher gifts. Erin finished making the ones she had started over Christmas vacation and decided she would give them to the teachers anyway. She paired that idea with idea that they might want to make a donation to the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation in exchange for having a cool and beautiful lanyard. Soon Erin's lanyards became such a big hit that she needed help from friends to collaborate with her.
Erin died in April 2009, a month short of finishing her sixth grade year in the INQUIRE Academy at Jane Long Middle School. Erin's friends have continued her work making lanyards, and people all over have continued to send donations to the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation in exchange for these artful and whimsical items.
There's a more important story embedded here. Erin's beaded lanyards help people by providing harnesses for their IDs. They also help people by generating funds for pediatric cancer research. Beyond these instrumental outcomes, there are some other benefits. Beading gave Erin something to do when she didn't feel like doing much. It gave her friends something to do with her when she couldn't run around and play like they could. Beyond that, wearing one of Erin's Dream Lanyards might prompt someone to notice and gives the wearer a chance to spread the word.
Since her death, lanyard making has continued to bring our friends together and has helped us make new friends. We add at least one green bead (Erin's favorite color) to each lanyard as "A Touch of Erin." When we bead, we share time, space, and conversation. As a bonus, Erin's friends have learned that you don't have to be rich, powerful, or even grown up to make a difference. Erin's Dream Lanyards has raised thousands of dollars since her death towards finding a cure for neuroblastoma.