After a massive windstorm roared through Iowa, leaving damage in its wake, one 12-year-old boy showed how to help raise spirits — and cash — to help the city of Mount Vernon recover.
What’s known as a derecho — a line of powerful windstorms — slammed Iowa in August.
“We got kind of lucky with the derecho,” Tommy Rhomberg, 12, told CBS News. “We didn’t have, like, any damage, but just driving around town there were people with half their house destroyed, and I just wanted to raise money so we could help them, help people rebuild.”
The boy didn’t start out to help everyone — just his friend Walker Viessman, whose birthday was on the day of the storm. There was no shortage of downed wood.
“I knew his favorite sport was baseball, and I thought it’d mean a lot to him if he got a baseball bat for his birthday,” Rhomberg said.
“This is just Tommy,” Amanda Rhomberg, Tommy’s mom told CNN. “He’s always been super creative and loves building stuff. He woke up at 6 a.m. to work on it over the course of a few days until it was perfect. When I saw it, my jaw just dropped.”
Mount Vernon’s own…Tommy Rhomberg 👍https://t.co/zeukbXFjIh
— Mike Cranston (@cranscoop) August 21, 2020
Tommy used his grandfather’s tools and grew a crop of blisters on his hands from the work. He gave the bat the name “The Great Derecho.”
“I didn’t expect anything for my birthday, but when Tommy brought me the bat he made me, I was so excited and thankful I have that great of a friend,” Walker said. “It was so nice of him to spend that much time making me a bat for my birthday.”
At first, his mother was the only one asking Tommy to replicate his work.
“I kind of thought, ‘Oh, shoot, Tommy. I think I would like one. Would you make me one?’ And he told me ‘no,'” she said. “He still had blisters on his hands.”
“I wanted to make my friend Walker a bat for his birthday,” Tommy said. “I had no idea lots of other people would want one too. I like being able to help, and I’m glad if people don’t have money to rebuild they can use some of the money donated from the bats instead.”
His family helped out by buying the boy a lathe.
“I don’t know how his little hands can do so much,” Amanda said. “He has put in hundreds of hours into making these bats. I am so proud of him for teaching himself a new skill and starting a business while doing so much good. He shows that you can make a difference in your corner of the world by doing what you can with what you have.”
The 30-inch bats are designed as mementos and not for competitive play, Tommy’s mom noted.
Despite making 200 bats — amounting to a donation to charity of about $4,000 — Tommy has a waiting list of more than 600 people. He admitted filling the requests may take some time.
“I am 12 years old and my parents won’t let me drop out of the 6th grade,” he said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.