OWATONNA — It was a typical night as Ashley Resler tucked her 5-year-old son Clay into bed. Somewhere between the bedtime story and the goodnight kiss, Ashley asked her son if he wanted to bake cookies or make Christmas cards for a service project this holiday season.
“It wouldn’t be very good to not have a bed,” Clay told his mom after some thinking. “I’m sure there are kids out there without beds.”
In short, Clay wanted to build a bed for a child in need.
Ashley said she had to clear the lump in her throat, undoubtedly developed by the swell of pride in her young son, before discussing how they would be able to accomplish this simple-enough request.
“We weren’t really able to build a bed, nor did we know any kids who needed a bed,” Ashley said, deciding with Clay that they would instead raise money for Beds For Kids. “It’s great that we have this local organization that we can connect with.”
Beds For Kids is a non-profit organization based in Owatonna that provides underprivileged children ages 2-17 with beds. The charitable group currently serves Steele and Waseca counties. According to Shari Kropp, the executive director for Beds For Kids, the program has provided 230 kids with beds so far this year, including their 1,000th bed given since the birth of their organization in 2010. The average cost for a single bed is about $190.
“I wanted to raise $100. That was my goal” said Clay, who began making “JOY” charm bracelets to sell to family in friends as a way to raise funds for the local organization. “We have enough for five beds.”
When Ashley posted a video to her Facebook page on Monday, Dec. 4, of Clay explaining what he was doing for charity, the response was overwhelming. The post was shared 50 times in one week, and 200 bracelets were quickly ordered, resulting in almost $1,000 raised. Clay personally stamps the word “JOY” onto each charm sold.
“The response from people ordering the bracelets has been so great,” Ashley said, saying that 50 percent of the orders have come from people the family has never met. “They just thank Clay for having such a big heart and his generosity.”
“It’s just so cool and so heartwarming when the young kids of the community really get involved to give back to their own,” Kropp said regarding Clay’s giving spirit this season. “We love when the younger kids help their peers have something that sometimes people overlook.”
“It’s something you don’t really think about when you’ve just always had a bed,” Ashley added, still amazed by her own child’s desire to help in such a loving way.
“Is it really us doing it, though, Clay? Who is really doing it?” she asked her son.
“God,” he responded.
“He’s just using us,” she added. “We’re trying to be lights for Jesus this season.”
“I want to be like Jesus,” Clay said.
Each bed donated by Beds For Kids includes a metal frame, a box spring, a mattress, and a complete bedding set including a pillow. Kropp said that depending on the donations available, most beds also come with a stuffed animal and a tie blanket. While the organization has had one of their biggest years in donations, Kropp said there are definitely still kids on the waiting list who need a bed, meaning the money raised by Clay will be put to very good use.
“It’s just so nice to show him that a 5-year-old can make a difference,” Ashley said. “That’s kind of the message that we like also, besides the raising money and awareness for Kids For Beds, it’s that you don’t have to be big to make a difference.”
Ashley and her husband Ben try to do one service project a month in their community with their kids, which includes Clay and his brothers Lincoln, age 4, and McLian, who is five months old.
“We try to do one for at least each holiday,” Ashley said, stating that she lets Clay and Lincoln pick the projects. “I want them to be as involved as possible, so I figure if it’s their idea they will connect to it more.”
The bracelets to raise money for Beds For Kids has been the biggest project the Resler family has taken on so far, though they are able to do it with a lot of fun and good spirits, including recruiting Grandma and Grandpa to work as elves in the workshop to try to get the jewelry out in time for Christmas. Talks are already in the works on how they can continue the project in years to come.
“We just want to give back because we feel we’ve been blessed so much” added Ashley.
To order a JOY bracelet, with proceeds going towards Beds For Kids, email Ashley Resler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each bracelet is $7, including shipping, and comes in adult and child sizes.