Chicago 7-year-old raises money for hospital's pandemic gear

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Hayley Orlinsky poses for a portrait Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, with several colorful rubber band bracelets she makes in her Chicago home. The 7-year-old has spent most of the coronavirus pandemic crafting the bracelets as a fundraiser, earning nearly $20,000, to buy personal protective equipment for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – Hayley Orlinsky has made so many bracelets, looping colorful rubber bands over her thumb and index finger again and again, that she no longer must watch her hands.

The spunky 7-year-old from Chicago has spent most of the coronavirus pandemic crafting the creations as a fundraiser to buy personal protective equipment for a children's hospital.

So far, the endeavor has generated nearly $20,000 for Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, prompting praise and purchases from Chicago politicians, a Broadway actor and her beloved White Sox.

Hayley’s initial goal was $200, which she quickly surpassed, charging $3 a bracelet or $5 for an added charm.

It's hard for the second grader to grasp how much more $20,000 is by comparison — but she figures it’s a lot.

“It’s more than the tooth fairy gives,” she said.

It all started when she heard news stories about PPE shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic and was inspired to help. The money Hayley raises goes directly to Lurie through a fundraising office. Lurie hasn't had any problems getting gear and has used the money to pay for masks, goggles, face shields, gloves and other items for medical workers and visitors, said Tracey McCusker, an associate director at the hospital’s foundation.

While many enterprising young people are raising funds for causes close to the heart, the amount Hayley has brought in is unusual.