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Grandfather, granddaughter team up to raise money for children’s cancer research

YOUNGSTOWN – Four brightly painted and lovingly handcrafted rocking horses and airplanes and four step stools have been donated to Lewiston-Porter schools by a grandfather-granddaughter team to raise money for children’s cancer research.

This is the final week for students and staff – and the public – to purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win one of these old-fashioned items, with all proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, earmarked for cancer research.

The idea for the fundraiser – called “Rockin’ Out Children’s Cancer” – originated with Kristin Wilson, 11, a sixth-grader at the middle school.

Kristin and her grandfather, Ralph Skrlin of Wilson, created the charming wooden toys – large enough for small children to clamber onto and enjoy – over the summer.

Skrlin said he and Kristin were watching television and when they saw an item about children in hospitals, she asked him what they might do to help.

Recalling that Skrlin had made rocking horses and airplanes for her and her two older sisters when they were young, Kristin thought these might form the basis for an excellent way of offering assistance.

She added the idea of the step stools because “little kids love them when we have taken them to their homes. My grandfather has made them for close friends and family members.”

Skrlin, who retired after a 45-year career in construction, said he has “built every house we’ve lived in.”

He added that woodworking is a hobby he has enjoyed for as long as he can remember.

“I planned these in my head,” he said of the rockers and stools. “Every one is different and I try not to use electrical tools, but try and do it by hand.”

The duo set to work this past summer on the eight items, and Skrlin said he taught Kristin how to use a palm-sander and a “pencil” sander “to do the intricate places.”

“She helped paint them, too, and braid the yarn manes on the horses,” Skrlin added. “She really does a lot of work on them and is a big help. She’s a good girl.”

Skrlin said of the donation of the handcrafted wooden items, “It’s our pleasure to do this and this also teaches Kristin responsibility, to be a good citizen.”

Tina Oddy is a Lew-Port consulting teacher and adviser to the district’s Builder’s Club, the student affiliate of the Kiwanis Club of Lewiston, which is overseeing the fundraiser. She said Katie approached her with an idea to “raise money for children’s cancer research and we thought St. Jude’s was a perfect fit.”

“I am so excited when students come to me with ideas and we can run with them, but I try and let the students organize things, because, that way, they are more vested in it,” Oddy said. “These are really handcrafted items and Kristin is learning a great skill from her grandfather. I was really amazed at them.

“And it wasn’t just that they wanted to donate them, but Kristin talked to me about this project and stayed after school and picked what ones went to each building and helped me with the posters,” Oddy said. “She will also pick the winning tickets on Friday – so she’s been involved with the whole thing.”

Tickets are available for $1 each or $5 for 7 tickets through Friday and winners will be notified by telephone.

Tickets purchased at the high school and intermediate education center offer two first-place prizes of rocking horses, with the second-place winners taking home step stools. Tickets purchased at the middle school and primary education center will earn the top winners at each school rocking airplanes, with the two runners-up winning step stools, Oddy said. Tickets may be purchased in the main lobby of each school, Oddy said.

Direct donations to St. Jude’s also may be made by visiting: Oddy said donations to this page will be tallied under Lew-Port’s name.