Three Friends Craft A Plan To Help Cure Childhood Cancer

December 15, 2011
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Carly Valko and Grace and Julia Tambaro are selling handmade "survival bracelets" to raise money for pediatric cancer resears./Photo credit: Marion Lynch

FAIR HAVEN – Three girls have turned their interest in crafts into a business venture to help bring an end to childhood cancer.

On a recent afternoon, fifth grader Carly Valko and sisters Grace (third grade) and Julia (fifth grade) Tambaro spent an afternoon at Carly’s house weaving brightly colored bracelets. They talked and laughed as they worked at the kitchen table, their fingers quickly shaping the long cords into complex knots. Soon, their finished products were added to the pile of bracelets in front of them.

When asked why they were spending their free time working at the table, the giggling stopped and the conversation turned serious. Their crafts, they hoped, would help bring an end to a disease that afflicted too many children.

“This makes me happy because I’m helping other kids,” Grace said.

The girls belong to the Monmouth Barracudas, a competitive swimming club led by Coach Paul Buerck. Two young members of the Barracudas have battled cancer in recent years – in 2009, nine-year-old Lilly Daneman of Little Silver was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a highly aggressive bone cancer. Less than two years later her teammate Rachel Kovach, 11, of Atlantic Highlands, learned that she had the same disease.

The Barracudas have supported their teammates in a variety of ways. Earlier this year the team hosted “Race for Rachel,” a swim meet that raised more than $2,000 for the Make Some Noise: Cure Kids Cancer Foundation, a charity chosen by Rachel and her family.

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The New Jersey-based Make Some Noise Foundation was founded by another young cancer patient, 11-year old Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio of Florham Park, to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

This past summer, Buerck, along with Seashore Day Camp coach Robin Levin launched “Swimmers Go Gold,” in which area beach club swim teams raised more than $12,000 for the organization by purchasing special gold swim caps and holding other events throughout the season.

Inspired by the Race for Rachel, Julia, Grace and Carly decided to do more to help the cause. Last March 4, they organized Crazy Hat and Crazy Hair day, where students at Fair Haven’s Sickles and Knollwood schools donated money to enjoy the privilege of wearing whimsical hats and hairdos. The event raised $1,200, and the girls split the proceeds between Make Some Noise and Rachel. Grace also held a bake sale to raise money.

“It felt good,” said Carly about their efforts. They felt so good that they wanted to continue to find ways to help sick kids.

Making bracelets.

On a recent outing with their grandfather, Grace and Julia were taught some knots – the monkey fist and the cobra knot. The girls, along with their friend Carly, enjoyed making the cobra knot bracelets. “Pop” (grandfather Michael Givens) made three wooden “jigs” that allowed them to tie the cord to a hook to make the bracelets.

“I did a little reading,” said Julia, “and found out that there’s seven feet of rope in the bracelets. You can use the rope in the bracelets to survive in the wilderness.”

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Long known to backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts as “survival bracelets” they are made from parachute cord (or “paracord”). In an emergency in the wilderness, the bracelet can be taken apart and the versatile cord can be put to use for tourniquets, lashings, shoelaces and fishing and sewing threads.

The bracelet’s name made it the perfect project for the trio to launch their next fundraising effort. They formed Val-Tam Incorporated, with the slogan, “Fund raising is FUN” and set out to fight childhood cancer.

The owners of Etre Day Spa & Salon in Rumson and Distinctive Toys in Fair Haven agreed to sell the bracelets in their businesses and collect the money for the girls. So far they have made more than 100 bracelets, which sell for around $10. They come in a variety of color combinations and the three have recently started experimenting with changing the knot.

“There’s a lot of different ways to make them,” Julia said.

On a recent visit to drop off some bracelets, Carly spoke to a man about their project.

“He gave us $100,” she said.

Next, they plan to make bracelets in purple and white, the colors of Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School’s Bulldogs sports teams.

Bracelets can be purchased by emailing or at Distinctive Toys, 595 River Rd., Fair Haven and Etre Salon, 117 East River Rd., Rumson.


For information about Make Some Noise, visit






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