TORRINGTON – What started out as a desire by one local youth for a little extra spending money has morphed into a cottage business – and a way to help out families in need.
Levi Cunningham, 11, builds key holders, those handy devices with small hooks that can hang on a wall near an entranceway where people can hang their keyrings. Levi’s great-grandparents, Shirley and Lester Walsh, are his co-designers and builders on the project.
“It started as an effort of my grandma and me,” Levi said. “I was trying to think about a way to make money and we decided to make the keyholders.”
Levi and his grandfather buy dimensional lumber, which granddad cuts to size. They use a router to add a decorative edge to the resulting unbuilt plaques, then Levi takes over. With paint, glue, stain and stones, they decorate the plaques to create the one-of-a-kind decorative – and functional – items.
The first one Levi built is an homage to the love of going fishing Levi shares with his grandfather Aaron Walsh. It’s the pair of them, in a boat on the water, complete with fishing poles – and a fish swimming by.
So far, most of the plaques Levi has made have been sold to family or friends, his mother, Andriella Walsh, said. But there was one larger order, a special request from the folks at Gracie’s Promise, a regional charity that helps with travel expenses and more for families with a member who’s hospitalized outside the area.
“They bought a bunch from us,” Levi said. “It had a butterfly sticker – I think a butterfly is their logo.”
Levi and his mom said they didn’t know for sure what Gracie’s Promise did with all the holders, which were set up only for a single set of keys. They think they were given as gifts to Gracie’s Promise volunteers.
The normal holder Levi builds will hold three sets of keys on individual hooks. Those sell for $5. He recently got a commission for a larger plaque, with wooden pegs designed to hold dog leashes. He’s got it done, but he hasn’t figured out what he’s going to charge for it yet.
Donating a portion of the proceeds to Gracie’s Promise wasn’t a hard decision to make, Levi said. The group has helped the families of two people he knows – one of them being his own.
“They helped us when my grandpa had heart problems,” Levi said, helping his grandmother make the trips to visit in a Colorado hospital.
“They also helped a girl in my school,” he said. “I’ve given $64 so far to Gracie’s Promise.
When he’s not building key holders, Levi is in sixth grade at Torrington Middle School, where he plays the trumpet and enjoys basketball or dodgeball with his classmates.
Outside school, he enjoys listening to music and playing video games, he said.
“Or I’ll just go outside and run around,” Levi said.
In a day and age where it’s difficult sometimes to get young people interested in anything, let alone helping others, Levi’s parents are proud he’s stepped up and is willing to lend a hand.
“I’m proud of him,” Jacob said. “It was his idea to take it to Gracie’s Promise. He decided who to help.”
“Crafts are really dying with modern technology,” he said. “It’s good to get kids back into working with their hands.”
Anyone interested in buying one of Levi’s key holders can contact Andriella at (307) 274-7626. There are a few available through the family business, Walsh’s Water Service, located at 1939 Main St. in Torrington.