'I want to know that I can make other children's lives better by doing a little bit of something in my own life,' the youngster shared.
Gabriel Clark from Cumbria, England, has been in love with woodworking ever since his mom handed him his grandfather's hammer at the age of 3 or 4. "I've always had a real passion for it and I've just taught myself everything I know," Gabriel, who is now 12, told PEOPLE. In addition to his interest in woodworking, Gabriel has always had an innate wish to do good and help those in need. This admirable quality led him to take action this spring as heartbreaking news of death, destruction and separations rose from Ukraine during Russia's assault on the nation.
It started on March 25, when Gabriel's father, Richard Clark, praised his son's craftsmanship on Twitter and shared how the teen has been saving money from sales of his handcrafted wooden bowls and cutting boards for a mountain bike. "Lovely twitter people - I don't know how many of you are also Instagram users but I'm looking for a wee favor. I have a 12-year-old old who loves woodwork. He spends hours on his lathe making bowls and creating chopping boards which he 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 @clarkie_woodwork. It would make his day. Thanks in advance and feel free to retweet," the tweet reads.
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. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/Ny60rFf1TE— Richard R Clark 🇺🇦 (@rclarkie) March 25, 2022
The post quickly went viral, and within 48 hours, Gabriel's Instagram page went from six followers to more than 200,000—which also came with thousands of orders for custom bowls. While he was blown away by his newfound popularity, the young craftsman saw it as the perfect opportunity to help others. On April 2, the teen launched a raffle for one of his handmade bowls to raise money for Ukrainian children. Before long, "Gabriel's Bowl For Ukraine"—which is etched with a blue and yellow ring, the colors of the Ukrainian flag—had raised $311,676 for Save the Children's Ukraine relief effort.
Gabriel announced the winner of the bowl raffle on Sunday, April 17, via Instagram. "We have a winner!! We feel we shouldn’t say who until they agree but we can say that the winner was on page 940 donor 8! My Bowl For Ukraine has a new home. Even though the raffle is finished, we’ve kept the Just Giving page open until next weekend as donations are still flooding in," the post reads. Speaking of the incredible response to his raffle, the talented youngster revealed that he'd initially set a goal of raising around $6,500 through his raffle and is "really amazed by how I've done this."
"I want to know that I can make other children's lives better by doing a little bit of something in my own life," Gabriel added. He also shared that the tweet that started it all was prompted by him telling his dad on Friday, March 25, that he was feeling a "bit down." "I asked dad if he could put something out on his Instagram or Twitter. He put out a bit of a tweet saying, 'My son's a little bit sad. Can you go support him by following his Instagram?' And instantly, it completely blew up," Gabriel recalled. According to the teen, he received more than 20,000 orders shortly after his dad's tweet. He came up with the Bowl for Ukraine raffle "as a response to being so supported," he added.
"The main thing about Gabriel, he's got a really, really big heart," shared his mother, Teresa McCann Clark, 53, who is an artist. "He's talented, he's creative, but more than anything, he's got a big heart."