While most 8-year-olds are spending their summer vacation playing at the beach on family vacations or preparing for the third grade, Abby Bolcik is spending her summer vacation decorating crab mallets to raise money for Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
“I got the idea last summer. I saw a mallet one day and said, ‘Hey, why are these plain? They’d be more fun if they had decorations on them,’” recalled Bolcik. “And Abby’s Crabby Mallets was born.”
Bolcik — whose family is from Frederick, Md., but lives in Fenwick Island during the summer — announced to her family last year that she wanted to have a job at the Hawaiian Crab Bar & Grill, like her older siblings.
“Last summer, Abby used to always say, ‘I want to go to work there! Maybe I’ll be the hostess,’ and we were laughing… We spent some time talking about it: ‘You’re 8, and you’re not going to work,’” recalled Kelly Bolcik, Abby’s mom. “Then she said, ‘What about if I worked and I could give my money to charity?’ And I thought, ‘Yay, you! Yay!”
Bolcik and her parents then spent time researching charities and decided to try to raise $500 for Saint Jude’s.
“I picked to do a charity,” said Abby. “This year I picked Saint Jude’s because the kids who have leukemia, their parents don’t have to pay anything and I feel it would be very nice. Plus my grandfather had leukemia.”
“My husband’s dad was diagnosed several years ago with a form of leukemia. It’s a form that usually strikes kids. She was only 5 at the time and we had talked to her about it, it a kid way, about people being sick and things like that,” Kelly Bolcik said of her 8-year-old daughter. “He is in remission now.
“Through that experience, she said, ‘I’d like to do things to help kids with cancer,’” explained Kelly Bolcik. “Just the idea for her, that nobody ever has to pay anything — the families can go there and they’re helping children, and the families don’t have to pay for anything. It was like a big light bulb went on for her.”
Every Sunday night this summer, and some Thursdays, from 6 to 8 p.m. Bolcik is seated at a table in the Hawaiian Crab, with a poster explaining her cause, a plethora of permanent markers for her to use for her art, some blank crab mallets as her canvases and a Lucite box her father made to house her requested $5 donations.
“I take requests,” said Bolcik, regarding how people would like their mallets customized. “I’ve gotten better.”
“Bless her little heart, she’s gotten really good at doing her version of the Raven’s head,” said Kelly Bolcik. “She will sit there for a couple of hours and do her best. She loves art. She loves drawing, so she wanted to do something artistic, and this is what she came up with.”
“She loves polka dots and stripes,” added Abby’s father, Scott. “She doesn’t just make a quick one and send it out. She’s all about the detail.”
On an average Sunday night, Abby will make anywhere from 10 to 20 mallets, and she is almost onto her second box of 100 mallets. Even when she’s not in the restaurant decorating mallets, donations are given and mallets are available.
Many people have been taken with Abby’s unique fundraiser and have donated $20 — and once even $100 — to her cause.
“One Sunday night they were there, and a man came up and told her he was so proud, she was doing such a wonderful thing and that it reminded him of things he had done with his kids,” said Kelly Bolcik. “He said he had left something at the bar for her, and he had left a hundred-dollar bill. It made her get tears in her eyes. It made me get tears in my eyes!”
Others who see Abby at her post will request designs ranging from crabs to rainbows, and even wedding bells.
“A couple got married, and they had their wedding party here. Someone attending donated $5 and asked if she could make one for the bride and groom,” said Scott Bolcik. “Well, the bride was nearly in tears, and she said, ‘We’ll hold onto this forever.’ Then the wedding party started coming out individually, asking for mallets to commemorate the day. That was the night we knew we were doing something neat here.”
Abby’s Crabby Mallets have become so popular that she has surpassed her original fundraising goal, having raised more than $700, and is now hoping to reach $1,000.
“I’ve learned that people are very generous. It feels good,” said Abby of being able to help others through her efforts.
At the end of the summer, Abby will send all of the money she raised to Saint Jude’s.
“They’re actually going to send her a certificate, thanking her,” said Scott Bolcik. “They loved the idea.”
The Bolciks said that, without the support of Cheryl and Becky Stewart, the owners of the Hawaiian Crab, Abby’s idea would never have gotten this far.
“From the very moment that we proposed it, they were so supportive and so wonderful,” said Kelly Bolcik. “They take money and donations for her even when she’s not there. When she is there, they’ll get on the microphones and announce it. They put up flyers that we made everywhere in the restaurant. They’ve been really great. We are so grateful they agreed to do this, because it wouldn’t have happened without them and their support.”
The Stewarts believe in Abby’s cause so much that on Aug. 16, 10 percent of all sales in the restaurant will be donated to Abby’s Crabby Mallets.
“This is a great cause and, hopefully, doing this night will get the community to support her even more,” said Cheryl Stewart. “She’s an amazing child. It’s just been wonderful.”
Stewart isn’t the only one impressed with Abby’s hard work and thoughtfulness — her parents, too, are impressed by her perseverance and growth, as well.
“Just from a parent perspective, just to watch her interact with people and talk with folks, is amazing because she’s just so comfortable talking to adults. She’s really good at engaging them to help them to support the cause,” said Scott Bolcik. “I’m very proud of her and what she’s doing.”
“It’s been such a wonderful experience for her this summer. We are very, very proud of her. She’s a remarkable little girl,” said Kelly Bolcik.
The Bolciks added that the community support has been unbelievable, and that they are thankful that residents and visitors both support their daughter in her endeavor.
“People are just so generous and wonderful and supportive,” said Kelly Bolcik. “It’s helped her see so much the lesson: you put good out and good comes back. And it has really helped her see how generous and kind people are, and that’s just an added benefit.
“We were just excited for her to do this because of the difference she could make for the kids at Saint Jude’s. But for her to see how good and kind people are has been such a wonderful thing.”
As for Abby, she plans on having Abby’s Crabby Mallets open and running again next summer.
“I’m already thinking of some other charities I can do,” she said.