By Steve Johnston, a member of the Holmen Area Rotary Club
When it comes to giving, Justin Bodin excels.
Justin, 24, became a member of the Holmen Area Rotary Club, Holmen, Wisconsin, USA, three years ago and quickly found a way to help children in a community in Peru enjoy a better Christmas. And it all started with something as simple as making a friendship bracelet.
Justin was born with a congenital heart disorder and was a special needs student through school. At 14, a friend of the family taught him how to tie friendship bracelets. Being a Rotarian runs in the family. His dad, Larry, served as the Holmen Area’s first president.
In 2011, during a visit to a small village in Peru to donate and install clean water systems, the club was asked if they could raise US$1,000 for the children to have Christmas presents. Dean McHugh, president of the club at the time, knew just who to ask. While Justin couldn’t travel to Peru because of his heart condition, he was great at tying friendship bracelets. He jumped at the opportunity to help the kids in Peru.
Justin started by making bracelets for a chapter service auction and they sold 13 for a total of $1,370. He had to go home and make three more bracelets. As part of the gift to the children, he made 100 bracelets to be given to the children so they could see how the money was being raised.
It was after the success of the fundraising project that Dean McHugh felt that Justin was more than deserving of Paul Harris Fellow recognition. Of our club members, there is perhaps none more deserving. So as one of his closing acts, McHugh awarded the recognition to Justin in 2011.
“Seeing people smiling and happy, makes me feel good that I can do something for someone else,” says Justin. “Especially the Peruvian kids who are less fortunate. I wish I could do more so they can have clean water and clean clothes.”
Justin has made 100 more bracelets this year with plans of raising money for the same children in Peru. It takes him about 30 minutes to make a bracelet, in addition to securing the supplies of string, tape, and clasps. He estimates he has now made between 500 to 600 bracelets since making them to raise money for the children.
Justin, who is active with his church’s youth group and a quarterback on the Special Olympics flag football team, would like to study to be an artist, and eventually live independently, continuing to raise money to help those in need. More than a Paul Harris Fellow, he is an inspiration for our entire club.