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A 12-year-old carpenter who was teased at school for his hobby has gone viral after his father took to social media for help.
Gabriel Clark, 12, from Cumbria, England, has been making wooden objects since he was 4, his father, director Richard Clark, told Fox News Digital.
Recently, Gabriel, who is halfway through his first year in high school, wanted a mountain bike in addition to the bike he already owns.
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Richard Clark told Fox News Digital that he told Gabriel he would have to find a way to earn the money for mountain biking himself.
Gabriel turned to carpentry – carving bowls and cutting boards to sell. In early March, Clark’s wife helped Gabriel create an Instagram page to show off her craftsmanship.
Woodwork is not considered “particularly cool”
However, Clark said the children at Gabriel’s school weren’t impressed with Gabriel’s hobby or his six followers – who were mostly parents.
“In the teenage world, that’s not really very cool,” Clark said. “You need to have more than six followers to be cool in the teenage world.”
“We have no idea, really, what happened or what happened.”
Last month, Gabriel came home on a Friday “a bit crestfallen” because the kids at school were taking him “the mickey” for his woodwork and Instagram followers, Clark said.
“I think he was a bit discouraged that his passion for woodworking wasn’t seen as particularly cool,” Clark said.
That day, Clark took action and asked his Twitter followers for help.
“Lovely people on Twitter – I don’t know how many of you are also #instagram users but I’m looking for a little favor,” Clark tweeted on March 25. “I have a 12 year old who loves working with wood. He spends hours on his lathe making bowls and creating cutting boards which he sells to save for a mountain bike.”
“So I was wondering if any of you would like to give him a thumbs up and follow him on instagram at clarkie_woodwork, that would make his day,” Clark wrote in a follow-up tweet. “Thanks in advance and feel free to retweet!”
Clark told Fox News Digital, “I was thinking of posting a tweet and seeing if we could get him a few more followers for his Instagram account.”
Going viral: “Like being caught in a whirlwind”
Clark hoped Gabriel would get 60 followers, which Richard says seems like “kind of a magic number” of Instagram followers for teens.
“His Instagram followers were growing by the thousands every time we refreshed the page.”
“I’m not particularly good at social media,” Clark said. “Any tweet I’ve posted gets barely more than 12 likes if I’m lucky…So I thought maybe 60 was aiming high.”
It didn’t take long for Gabriel’s supporters to far exceed this “magic number”.
“Within an hour, it just started to get a little crazy,” Clark said. “His Instagram followers were growing by the thousands every time we refreshed the page.”
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“We have no idea, really, what happened or what happened,” Clark added. “I think Saturday morning it was over 30,000. And by the time things calmed down a bit on Monday morning, it was over 220,000 subscribers.”
As of Wednesday, Gabriel’s Instagram account had 225,000 followers.
“It was really amazing,” Clark said. “It was like being caught in a whirlwind.”
Clark said Gabriel received “a huge outpouring of affection and support and real, genuine kindness”.
“Gabriel got a lot out of it,” he added. “But also, it resulted in over 20,000 orders for bowls and cutting boards, which worried him a bit.”
Clark said he and his wife tried to protect Gabriel from the “pressure,” so they tried to find a way to get Gabriel to respond to all the attention.
“Instead of making 20,000 bowls, he was going to carve one, which he called his ‘Bowl for Ukraine,'” Clark explained.
“People have been extremely generous.”
Gabriel will donate the bowl in a charity raffle at Easter.
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To enter the raffle, people must donate to a Just Giving page set up by the Clarks. Funds donated through the page go directly to UK-based charity Save the Children, specifically the organization’s Appeal for Ukraine, Clark said.
“It was Gabriel’s way of trying to give something to kids who really, really need it,” Clark said.
Although Gabriel’s initial goal for the Just Giving page was just £5,000 ($6,542.57), the page raised £66,219 ($86,648.55) on Wednesday.
Donations come in from all over the world, according to Clark.
“People have been extremely generous,” Clark said. “We are extremely grateful to the people who get involved and try to support us.”
Now that Gabriel has gone viral, Clark said he wanted to be clear that Gabriel’s teasing story isn’t “remarkable.”
“The teasing comes from it being uncool because you’re standing out,” Clark said. “The thing is…it’s everywhere. This is not at all peculiar to Gabriel or any child. It’s in every school in the world.
“It’s just normal stuff,” he added. “If you’re ever on the receiving end, of course it hurts. Because we’re all vulnerable.”
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In Gabriel’s case, his passion for woodworking was not considered “cool” by his peers, Clark said.
“He has a real passion for woodworking and making things and I think when you’re that kind of age, you know, sports are cool… but woodworking probably doesn’t have everything to makes the same cachet,” Clark said. “It’s not something you see competitively on TV, for example.”
When the raffle is over and things have calmed down, Clark said he and Gabriel will need to work out the actual cost of a bowl so they can move on to fundraising for mountain biking.
Clark said no matter what, Gabriel will retain his “real, genuine talent” and passion for woodworking.
“He’s very happy, quietly with his music, carving bowls or making things. It gives him a kind of deep joy and a kind of stillness,” Clark said.
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