Tupper Lake girl makes bracelets to fight cancer

TUPPER LAKE – A local girl is hard at work fighting cancer, one bracelet at a time.

Samantha Higgins, 10, has been busy for the last few weeks making paracord bracelets and keychains as a fundraiser for Tupper Lake’s upcoming Relay For Life.

Her original goal was to raise $100, but she surpassed that in just a week. As of Tuesday evening, she had raised $258 total after taking out money to pay for her supplies, and she has upped her goal to $500.

“She’s been selling a ton at school,” said her dad, Steve.

She has a bag full of bracelets that she brings to school to sell. If someone wants a special size or a special color, she will make bracelets to order as well.

Her family members also are some of her best advertisers, modeling her work throughout their day.

“As we wear them, people see them and want them,” said Samantha’s mother, Kim.

The Higgins family is dedicated to raising money for Relay For Life. Kim is taking over the role of chairperson for the entire event this year. Kim’s mom is a colon cancer survivor – she’s 14 years cancer-free – and Kim’s grandmother died of lung cancer long before she was born.

Kim notes that her grandmother got chemotherapy in about the late 1950s, when the treatments were still very experimental. She said she likes that much of the Relay money raised goes to help with research and experimentation for treatments.

This will be Samantha’s third year participating in Relay, and she’s again come up with an idea for it, her parents said. Last year, her idea was a “cake walk” – a musical-chairs-type game in which participants could win a cake.

“This year, she decided she wanted to do it on her own,” Kim said.

The paracord bracelet is actually quite appropriate for an event like Relay, which emphasizes cancer survival, because they are often called “survival bracelets.” In an 8-inch bracelet, there’s 8 feet of strong cord that can be cut open and used in a life-threatening situation.

Samantha learned to make the bracelets by looking them up online after a friend gave her one.

She made 78 last weekend, her first big push, and she plans to keep going until the Relay on June 15.

“She’s been quite busy,” Steve said, noting that she will sometimes knot bracelets for two hours straight after her homework is done at night. “But she hasn’t complained once.”

“No, it’s fun,” Samantha said. “Dad says it’s taking over my life.”

She calls it addicting.

The Higgins’ living room is packed with bracelet-making material, with tons of different colors and varieties of paracord – some that even glow in the dark – and packs of the little clips that Samantha puts on the ends of the bracelets to fasten them.

Steve even made her two wooden jigs for bracelet making. Kim used to have to hold the end of the bracelet while Samantha tied the knots.

“I said, ‘I can’t do this, babe. You need to figure something out,'” Kim said.

Now Samantha uses the jig to set how long the bracelet should be. She measures out the cord, then has her mom thread two fastener clips onto the cord. She attaches one of them to a clip on the jig, then ties knots all the way down the bracelet until it is long enough.

At the end, she ties it off, and then Kim has to burn off the ends.

It doesn’t take her long to make a bracelet. She says it takes, “Like a minute. It’s really easy.” But her parents correct her to say one bracelet takes maybe five minutes.

“I could do it with my eyes closed,” Sam said.

Samantha said that she’ll sell bracelets at the Relay event this year and may even bring supplies to make some there.

In past years, Relay has run from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and Samantha has gone home once it got late. But this year, the event is running from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., so she’s hoping to stay up the whole time.

She says she thinks she can do it, but her parents aren’t as optimistic. Steve says she’s probably never even seen midnight.

Samantha’s parents said they are proud of what she’s doing.

“It’s kind of good to see her working so hard for her goal, and then exceeding it in a week,” Steve said.

Relay For Life is holding an event tonight to kick off the fundraising season from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Wild Center natural history museum.