Beverly Elementary hosts DIY Festival

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 29, 2017


BEVERLY HILLS — Beverly Elementary hosted a student DIY Festival last week so students could show off and sell their homemade creations to benefit some worthy causes.

The event took place May 23 and was organized by parents Elyssa Sardy, Lisa Samartino, Ashley Caza and Marla Mellon.

“It was an idea to bring the school together around one thing,” said Caza. “We wanted to do something community-driven that all the students could join in on, not something focused on one thing that only some of the kids take part in, like sports or music. I think it’s a great way for any school to provide an outlet for their kids and pull everyone together.”

The four organizers found momentum among the other parents and students at Beverly Elementary School and modeled their sale on the Ferndale DIY Street Fair, which has become a popular attraction in recent years.

Each participating child got a table and could decorate it how he or she wanted. Beyond that, the students were given free rein to create what they wanted.

“We had five categories of items they could choose from, but there was a miscellaneous category, so they could choose to make pretty much anything they wanted,” remarked Caza. “We had everything from walking sticks to board games to jewelry. We put a cap on certain items to make sure everyone wasn’t trying to make and sell the same things, but otherwise they could do what they thought was best.”

Each child would choose how much of their earnings to donate to a local nonprofit. Two nonprofits were coordinating with the festival this year: Humble Designs and the Birthday Party Project. The organizers agreed that working with nonprofits and allowing the children to make their own decisions provided a host of benefits for the young DIYers.

“We let the kids base how much they would charge and how much they would donate on how much they spent on supplies and how much time they spent on their project,” said Sardy. “I think it teaches the kids a lot. It gives them something to work for and teaches them about delayed gratification.”

Humble Designs assists families who are transitioning out of homeless shelters. It fills the homes of families with furniture and other items, such as cooking appliances and dishes, to help them start a new independent life.

“I have two daughters here at Beverly Elementary who are participating in this year’s event,” explained Carrie Chung, of Humble Designs. “When I heard about this year’s festival, I reached out to the coordinators to tell them that we at Humble Designs would love to be a part. Any of the funds we earn here will go directly to families coming out of homeless shelters, and we always like to share our story and get the word out.”

The Birthday Party Project is a national organization that recently began operating in the Detroit area. It provides monthly birthday parties for children in shelters with birthdays that month, complete with cake, balloons and gifts for the children.

“We like just getting more people informed about our goals and raising awareness of our organization,” said Angie Darnall, of the Birthday Party Project. “We operate on the belief that just spreading joy can save lives, and the festival sort of folds in with that.”

About 70 students participated in the first DIY Festival in 2016, while this one included 105 students — including some who don’t even attend Beverly Elementary. A variety of items were sold at the festival, including hand-sewn toys, doll clothes and picture frames.

Nine-year-old Nils Ericsson created a collection of walking sticks that he then decorated with different designs and themes, such as certain sports teams.

“It took us a year to make these,” said Ericsson. “We went up north and went to my uncle’s cottage and cut down trees — with permission. After that, they sat in my other uncle’s shop for three months before we sanded them down, drill-pressed them and decorated them.”

Some students got creative with their tables and even indulged their artistic side.

“I hot-glued crayons onto the base and then melted them,” explained 9-year-old Talia Sardy. “I wrote words on some of them so you can give one that says ‘best teacher’ on it to a teacher you like as a gift. They’re fun to make and really pretty, and I think a lot of people would like them as gifts.”