Extraordinary is as extraordinary does

Girl in red shirt holding bracelets

In 2019, Cayman International School student Tyra Abell had an idea about how to raise money for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.

In November of last year, that idea – called Beads2Cure – earned her recognition from Cayman Islands Governor Martyn Roper in the form of a newly established award that acknowledges achievements by students in the area of volunteerism. She was surprised to receive the award because her parents went through great lengths to keep it secret from her.

“My parents told me we were going for dinner,” says Abell, who has often sold her goods at Camana Bay, which is turning its lights lavender for the month of February as 4 Feb. is World Cancer Day. “I was surprised when we ended up at the Governor’s House and even more shocked by the award, which they had named after me: The Tyra Abell Extraordinary Student Volunteer Award.”

Abell got the idea for Beads2Cure in 2019 while having a conversation with Cayman Islands Cancer Society Operations Manager Jennifer Weber, who told her that even small donations could make an impact for the Society. She had just received beads as a gift and thought it would be a nice gesture to create something small that could be sold and the funds donated to the Society. Abell sold the first set of bracelets she made at a musical performance at her school, raising CI$500 to donate to the Cancer Society. After a pause in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyra picked it back up in 2021, hosting her first public sale on the Camana Bay Paseo.

“I didn’t realise the impact this could have on the wider community,” she says. “People whose lives had been touched by cancer were taken by the bracelets, choosing to wear them as a token to recognise someone they cared about whose life was affected by the disease. That sale raised $1,200 in one day.”

Beads and bracelets

Her parents supported her initial efforts by buying three bags of bracelet materials.

"They wanted it to have an impact in the community, but they had no idea how big it would grow," she says.

Beads2Cure now has other funding for its materials.

“We had reached out to Ryde Cayman and along with an anonymous donor, they sponsor all the materials we need,” she says.

Beads2Cure has now raised more than CI$22,000 for the Cancer Society and it is now a well-established fundraising programme at Cayman International School, with 60 students actively participating.

“Meetings are every Monday after school where kids help make the bracelets,” she says. “This also gives an opportunity for those students who are shyer to contribute by making the bracelets. Students who are more adventurous can get out and sell.”

The bracelets made with glass beads sell for CI$5, while those made with crystals and stones sell for $15. Although Abell achieved a great deal since the inception of Beads2Cure, she has no plans to slow down. There will be new bracelets and more events this year, with sales on the Camana Bay Paseo every second month. There will also be a special fundraising event at the school in March to raise funds for the Cancer Society.

Although Abell will head to Canada in the summer to attend university, Beads2Cure will be in good hands as she is prepping other student leaders to keep the programme running. She has also set her sights on bringing her concept of Beads2Cure to other countries as well.

“There is a cohort of graduating students who expressed interest,” she says. “I will be helping them to create Beads2Cure wherever they are.”


This article was originally published in the February 2023 edition of Camana Bay Times.

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