Local 8-year-old raises money for Austin Smith Playground

Roz Russ of Monticello wanted to help raise money for the Austin Smith Inclusive Playground project. She decided to make and sell superhero-themed bracelets, and already surpassed her goal of raising $250. Her next goal is $1,000. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     “I want to be the first junior superhero.”

     Roslynne (Roz) Russ, 8 years old, had a goal of raising $250 for the Austin Smith Inclusive Playground project in Monticello. The $250 margin qualifies Russ as a “Junior Superhero” when it comes to the various sponsorship levels for the playground project.

     The project is a collaboration between the Austin Strong Foundation and Monticello Parks and Recreation.

     Russ is making colored bracelets, each with a different superhero theme, for $5. Her goal was to sell 50 bracelets. On Feb. 24, Russ’ mom, Emily, released a video of Russ sharing her fundraising idea with the world. A few days later, she easily surpassed her goal at $800. When asked how many bracelets she has to make, Russ’ answer was, “A lot! I haven’t kept track yet.”

     Russ chose the superhero theme for her bracelets because Austin Smith, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 6, loved superheroes. It is also the theme for the individual sponsorship levels for the playground. For example, someone who donated $10,000 to $19,999 would be considered an “Iron Man Sponsor.”

     While Russ has a list of bracelets to make, her mom said some people have simply donated toward the cause without requesting a bracelet.

     Russ got the idea to raise money for the playground after her dad, Johnny, told her about the playground project.

     “My dad said they needed more money for a playground,” she said. “So I went upstairs and grabbed my money and said I had some to donate.”

     Not wanting Russ to give her actual money, Jonny and Emily convinced her to think of a way to make something to sell to the public, and raise money that way.

     After writing down all of the superhero names, Russ and her dad researched the different color combinations associated with each one. She used those colors to create her bracelets.

     The family is planning a trip to the store to buy more rubber bands because Russ said she ran out of red and gray bands.

     With so many bracelets to make, Russ said she plans to teach her parents how to make them to speed up the process. She’s also received assistance from a couple of friends, as well as “Grandma Susie (Russ).”

     “I like going to playgrounds and this will be something fun for everyone,” Russ said of the inclusive playground project. “It’s good to help raise money for the Austin Strong Playground.”

     Russ said she’s had several friends at school want to buy her bracelets, but unfortunately they didn’t have enough money to buy one or didn’t bring their money to school. She was very excited to share that her teacher, Mrs. (Cindy) Savage was her very first customer. She bought two bracelets: Captain America and The Hulk.

     “She’s the best!” praised Russ.

     One of Russ’ dad’s friends, John Snyder, who serves on the Monticello Fire Department with Johnny, bought over 30 bracelets. He plans to donate them all to the children’s hospital in Iowa City.

     So now that Russ far-exceeded her initial goal, her new one is to raise $1,000.

     She said it takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to make one bracelet, depending on what else she’s doing. Each bracelet is “kid size,” allowing them to stretch to fit adults as well.

     To order a superhero bracelet from Russ or to donate to the cause, call or text Emily Russ at 319-480-0674. To learn more about the playground project, visit their Facebook page: “Austin Smith Inclusive Playground.”


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