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Joy

A 12-year-old was told his woodworking hobby wasn't cool. One tweet changed everything.

He went from six Instagram followers to raising more than $300,000 with one bowl for Ukraine.

A 12-year-old was told his woodworking hobby wasn't cool. One tweet changed everything.

Gabriel Clark's woodworking hobby just became very, very cool.

One of the tough things about being middle-school-aged is that interests and hobbies that are cool to everyone who isn't middle-school-aged are often seen as not cool by your peers. Unfortunately, that can lead a lot of kids to abandon things they love.

A dad who didn't want to see that happen inadvertently set off an avalanche of support and generosity when he tweeted about a lack of peer support for his son's woodworking hobby. Gabriel Clark, his 12-year-old son, has loved making things with wood since he was first handed his grandfather's hammer when he was 3 or 4 years old. "I've always had a real passion for it," Gabriel told PEOPLE, "and I've just taught myself everything I know."

Gabriel's father, Richard Clark, explained how sharing his son's struggles with his peers over his hobby blew up the internet over the past few weeks.

"Three weeks ago my youngest, Gabriel 12, came home upset," Clark wrote in a tweet on April 15. "His love of woodwork was not deemed cool, nor was only having 6 followers on his Instagram.


"His Dad was upset too. It's hard watching your children battling with life. But what to do? Mum wasn't around, so Dad, the impulsive fool that he is, instead reached out to the lovely people on Twitter. Maybe he could persuade some of them to follow his son?"

Clark's tweet on March 25 had read: "Lovely twitter people - I don't know how many of you are also #instagram users but I'm looking for a wee favour. I've a 12yr old who loves woodwork. He spends hours on his lathe making bowls and creating chopping boards which he's sells to save up for a mountain bike. So I was wondering if any of you fancied giving him a boost and following him on instagram at clarkie_woodwork it would make his day. Thanks in advance and feel free to retweet!"

Clark said his son was aiming for 60 followers.

But very soon, Clark's Instagram follower count rocketed into the hundreds, then the thousands.

Within days, that number had exploded to more than 225,000—and more than 20,000 orders for Gabriel's handmade bowls and chopping boards.

Knowing there was no way for him to fulfill that many orders—or anything even close to it—the young man decided to just make one special bowl to auction as a fundraiser for Ukraine.

He created a bowl made of beech wood, which includes a blue band and a yellow band, reflecting the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

The Clark family set up a Just Giving page with a goal of raising £5,000 and invited people to donate for a chance to win the bowl in a drawing.

And as happened with Gabriel's Instagram following, the amount just kept growing and growing.

With the increased giving came increased hope.

"What if we threw caution to the wind and let go of our cynicism and really went for it?" Richard Clark wrote. "What if we blew this silly tale of a small boy and his bowl out of the water with a last swing shot around the moon?"

He suggested people pool together to chip in and see if they could give the Save the Children Ukraine Appeal £100,000.

As it turned out, £100,000 was not only doable, but surpassable. As of April 16, they'd raised £150,000 and Gabriel shared a message of thanks.

The drawing was held, but it still wasn't over. The Ukraine bowl has now gone to a donor somewhere south of where the Clarks live…

…but the Clarks decided to keep the fundraiser open a little bit longer, as people moved by Gabriel's story were still wanting to donate.

With Gabriel's Instagram following blossoming to 250,000, it only seems fitting that the fundraiser should push for £250,000.

As of the writing of this article, it's at £246,711 (over $320,872). Clark said the fundraiser will stay open until Saturday.

"It's all too much. I need to sleep," Richard Clark wrote. "I leave everything to you. RT if you wish. Or not. You've all done more than enough. The fundraiser closes on Saturday regardless. Tread kindly good people and bless you all."

Social media really can be used for good, friends.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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