Teen's crafts offer boost to charities

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10:15 p.m.

A Norwin High School junior has turned her love of bracelet making into a way to help several charities.

Raeann Sleith, 15, of North Huntingdon, began making bracelets as a hobby in 2004, when she was 6 years old. Soon, she started Raeann's Creations to sell her bracelets to benefit several organizations helping her brother, Derek.

Derek, 17, has Cri-du-chat syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder, or PDD, said Johnna Sleith, Derek and Raeann's mother.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Cri-du-chat syndrome is caused by a missing chromosome, which leads to abnormal facial development, poor growth, severe delays in cognitive and speech development, and respiratory and behavioral problems.

PDD is a mild form of autism, which results in delayed development of socialization and communication skills, according to Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization.

“He's nonverbal and developmentally delayed, so he's on the level of a 3- to 5-year-old,” Johnna Sleith said. “He communicates through sign language and is working with a speech therapist.”

Johnna said Raeann and Derek always have had a close friendship. Even though she is younger than Derek, Raeann has been more of a big sister to him, the mother said.

Raeann began making bracelets for friends and family as gifts when she was seven.

She hadn't thought about selling them until she began receiving compliments on her work, Raeann said.

“It was always something I liked doing, and I wanted to help my brother by giving to the charities he's involved with,” Raeann said.

So she started selling bracelets, which are made of glass beads and charms on an elastic rope.

Raeann said she customizes bracelets for different causes, such as autism or cancer awareness, or for sports teams.

So far, Raeann has raised more than $34,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the 5 P Minus Society — a Cri-du-chat syndrome support group; the Westmoreland County chapter of the Autism Society of America; and Clelian Heights School in Greensburg, a school for special-needs students, where Derek attends classes.

She also sold bracelets as fundraisers for the Police Athletic League's adaptive baseball league and the Reflections of Grace Foundation.

Raeann typically sells each bracelet for $10.

“I never thought it'd become something this big,” Raeann said. “But I feel proud seeing people wearing my bracelets, and knowing they care enough to help out these organizations.”

For more information on Raeann's Creations, contact Raeann or Johnna Sleith at sleith11227@msn.com.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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