ROSEMOUNT, Minn. – The friendships – and the impact – just keep growing.
The Kamryn and Friends Bracelet Bunch, which we first met in June, has now raised more than $130,000 for families in need and recovery efforts for parts of the Minneapolis community damaged following the senseless death of George Floyd.
Kamryn Johnson, 9, and a few neighborhood friends have grown their friendship bracelet effort from a single lemonade-stand-style setup at her home in Chanhassen to a traveling nonprofit of sorts.
The group now has transitioned to regular pop-ups in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities, the most recent being hosted in Rosemount by Vikings fullback C.J. Ham.
A good friend of Kamryn's father, FOX 9 analyst and KFAN and Vikings Entertainment Network contributor Ron Johnson, C.J. and his wife Stephanie reached out to the Johnsons and offered to host one of the weekly events.
View photos of Vikings FB C.J. Ham who hosted, The Kamryn and Friends Bracelet Bunch, a pop-up bracelet shop that raises money to help Minneapolis families in need.
"They've been everywhere," C.J. laughed of Kamryn and Friends, who have been featured on the likes of Good Morning America and The Kelly Clarkson Show. "We reached out to see how we could get involved, [and we] were more than happy to serve them in [this way]."
C.J. autographed brightly colored shirts that have since been designed for Kamryn & Friends, adding his signature just above the group's printed mantra: Creative hands bringing communities together.
The impact that the Bracelet Bunch is making is not lost on C.J., a Minnesota native who grew up in Duluth and regularly is involved in giving back to his home state.
"It's truly amazing. It really warms my heart to see so many different people coming together for this," C.J. said. "Especially being young people, being young kids, to really grasp how important it is to come together – no matter what race you are, no matter your beliefs – and do something for a greater purpose, and these kids have done that. It's truly heartwarming to see that in the younger generation."
C.J. and Stephanie also aim to raise their young daughters, Skylar (4) and Stella (1), to treat others with kindness and look for ways to make a difference.
Skylar spent time at the bracelet pop-up, watching Kamryn braid the brightly colored thread and selecting a Vikings-colored bracelet that she then carefully tied around C.J.'s wrist.
"To have her out here, obviously she's wondering [about the event], and it's just an opportunity for us to dive into this," C.J. said. "It doesn't have to be diving into it really deep, but just at a young age, bring this to light in her mind and see how much fun people can have [while supporting a good cause]."
Ron and his wife, Shani, have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with individuals all over the Twin Cities who have heard about the Bracelet Bunch. In addition to the money being raised, they're grateful for the productive conversations that consistently and organically take place during the events.
"It's just been cool, everywhere this has gone, the neighborhoods we've been to, the conversations we've had, especially around race," Ron said. "That's something a lot of people often don't want to [talk about], and that's what's been cool.
"You just never know what's going to come of it," he added.
Ron's statement rang especially true on Friday when members of the Rosemount Police Department arrived at the neighborhood.
Chief of Police Mikael Dahlstrom, along with a number of officers, greeted Kamryn and the group with smiles and warm waves.
"How much are the bracelets?" Dahlstrom asked, counting out bills. "How many will $100 buy?"
Kamryn's face lit up as she showed Dahlstrom and the other officers rows and rows of the brightly braided bands to choose from. The police chief later made another $100 donation and spent time talking with C.J. and Ron about the Bracelet Bunch's admirable work.
Dahlstrom said that his department had taken notice of Kamryn's efforts through social media and were happy for the opportunity to visit the Rosemount pop-up.
"I'm all about service. Our profession is all about service. Everybody can be great if they're willing to serve, and I think that's what Kam is doing – and we wanted to come support that," he explained. "The kids, the atmosphere here is happiness, it's spreading partnership with the community. That's what our mission statement is at the police station, as well, so they're doing everything that we want to do.
"I was speaking with C.J. Ham and Ron Johnson and mentioning, 'Can we do partnerships in the future to try to build these conversations?' " Dahlstrom added. "I think we've got parts of society that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and we need to bring people to the middle. Those conversations might be difficult, but it's events like this that do that, and that's why we want to be part of it."
Especially considering the recent social unrest in the Twin Cities and across the country, Dahlstrom said seeing young people like Kamryn making such a tremendous difference in the community "means everything" to him.
"I think that's the future; you have figureheads in the community that are leading by example – that's the first thing I would say," Dahlstrom said. "And to me, like I was talking to C.J. about, I didn't like police officers before I became a police officer, because I didn't understand what it was like to be one. As I've started to have more of these conversations, somebody gave me the analogy of, 'Chief, you're feeling hate right now; you're feeling like people are judging you. But you can go home and take off your uniform. [But] people can't take off their uniform.'
"That was an analogy that resonated with me, and I want to continue to have conversations like that to build perspective," Dahlstrom added.
As Kamryn & Friends continues to travel around the Twin Cities, the Johnsons are continually evaluating various platforms, causes and nonprofits to which they can donate the proceeds.
A portion of the proceeds have already been donated, and most recently the family has worked with a social worker to purchase groceries for inner-city families who have a financial need or have been directly affected by local damaged businesses.
"I want to do that stuff, one, to show them that as bad as it might seem, 'There is a God, and God does love you," Ron said.
"We've done nothing special," he later added. "I think God's been doing it all, and these kids are proof of it – that no matter how young, no matter how small, no matter what color you are, you can help people. You can make a difference. And I think that's key."