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She crafts help for others

Seventh-grader's jewelry is fighting autism

Seventh-grader's jewelry is fighting autism

June 15, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

SMITHSBURG - For Ha Vu, the most beautiful thing about her 12-year-old daughter's jewelry-making enterprise isn't the product. It's the purpose.

"It was for fun, something to do with the kids, and it turned into something great," Vu said. "It was her idea."

Linh Vu, a seventh-grader at Smithsburg Middle School, has been selling necklaces, earrings and bracelets to raise money to support autism research and families affected by the condition. She said she and her mother and aunt began making the jewelry after a family reunion in August to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

"We just saw all these beautiful shells, so we just started making them," Linh said.

The sister of an autistic 8-year-old, Linh said an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that featured the struggles of a family dealing with an autistic child inspired her to sell her jewelry for people in need.

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Her brother, Dan, communicates with his hands, but cannot speak, she said.

"I thought if I could help people like Dan and people like in the (TV) special, it would be really nice," Linh said.

On the night before her algebra final at school, Linh sat at the dining room table of her parents' elegant home on a cul-de-sac off Mount Aetna Road, with jewelry displayed in front of her. Photocopies of checks from her parents' bank account showed she has given $300 each to three groups devoted to autism advocacy.

"I was thinking, 'Wow, all that money could have been mine,' but there's better stuff out there, and I thought giving it away would be much better than keeping it," Linh said.

Linh said developing a design is the most difficult aspect of creating a new piece of jewelry, which can take a few hours. She said her mother's pieces feature rocks, and her aunt's incorporate seashells, like the ones her family found at the beach.

Linh's beaded bracelets and necklaces are more whimsical, and she said she designs them for children. She said she charges $15 or more for some pieces, and her parents' friends, Dan's therapists and other family acquaintances who stop by the house are among her customers.

Linh conceded life with an autistic sibling can be frustrating, but she said she is proud of her brother and hopeful that medical advances someday will lead to a cure for autism.

"He's very smart. It's just his autism that's holding him back, I guess," Linh said of Dan. "Very proud of him."

Linh's mother expressed optimism, as well.

Though she believes Linh's school classes next year will consume too much of her time to allow the side business to continue, Ha Vu said she's glad her daughter decided to use her talents to help others.

"She always thinks that we're lucky that we're in a situation that we can help other people," Ha Vu said.

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