Girls braid bracelets to raise money for memorial
WATERLOO (AP) — Supplies are spread out across the living room floor of the Minikus family home: brightly colored skeins of thread, bags full of cross stich floss, scissors, rulers.
Cousins Breann Minikus, 11, and Taylor Stefancik, 10, have a day off of school, but they are up early, working to add to a colorful pile of twisted, knotted and braided bracelets. So far this morning, they have made more than 100.
Initially, the girls started making the bracelets last fall and selling them to family and friends. They raised $60 that they donated to the reward fund for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case of slain cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins of Evansdale.
After their initial donation, the girls continued to make bracelets and sell them for $1. On March 25, the pair delivered another $548 to the Waterloo Police Department, this time designating the money for the project to create a memorial for Lyric and Elizabeth on the island at Meyers Lake in Evansdale.
Thinking their bracelet-making days were behind them, the girls were surprised — and honored — when Sarah Werkmeister asked them to continue their efforts just a little longer.
Werkmeister is organizing Concert for the Angels to benefit the memorial project featuring the band Saving Abel.
Werkmeister wants the girls and their efforts to be recognized onstage during the concert and has asked them to supply and sell more bracelets there.
"We're hoping to get 500 to 600 done for the concert," said Renae Minikus, Breann's mother.
The girls' progress can be followed on Bracelets for Lyric and Elizabeth and Crimestoppers on Facebook.
Breann and Taylor closely followed the developments in the missing cousins case. Breann was frustrated when she wasn't allowed to accompany her parents when they joined in the search for the girls in July.
"I just really wanted to help," Breann said.
"We're doing this so their families will have a chance to remember them," Taylor said.
Joining the girls for their work session is 9-year-old Jersey Barfels, Werkmeister's daughter.
It seems fitting that Jersey is helping the girls. It wasn't long ago that Jersey needed help herself.
Diagnosed with cancer in November 2011, benefits were held to raise money to help cover her medical expenses and other costs. In fact, Elizabeth brought $85 to school to donate to Jersey's cause.
Werkmeister heard about the Evansdale girls disappearing around the same time Jersey was deemed cancer free.
"Her journey was beginning as mine was ending," she said.
Werkmeister followed Heather Collins, Elizabeth's mother, on Facebook and found her messages uplifting and inspiring.
"I kept thinking, 'What can I do?'" she said.
Once the idea of a benefit concert came to her — Werkmeister's boyfriend is Eric Taylor, Saving Abel's bass player — things started to come together.
In addition to Saving Abel, the event, which will take place April 20 at McElroy Auditorium, will feature Never the Less, Lotus, Lexi Chapman and more. For the kids, there will be face painters, a balloon artist and temporary tattoos. Tickets, $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, can be purchased at any Cedar Falls or Waterloo Hy-Vee, McElroy's box office, First Security State Bank in Evansdale, Poyner Elementary (cash only) and online at www.redtrucktickets.com.
Donations also can be made through the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. Checks should be made payable to Angels Memorial Fund and mailed to Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, Angels Memorial Fund, 425 Cedar St., Suite 310, Waterloo IA 50701.
For more information and updates, go to Concert for the Angels on Facebook.
Werkmeister challenges everyone to find a way to help.
"If a 10- and 11-year-old can do something on that level, what are you capable of doing?"