She sits in the center of her bright pink room in Vineyard Haven and deftly constructs a rubber-band bracelet on a Rainbow Loom. Though it’s clear that Nikeya Tankard doesn’t like to be the center of attention, she does mention that she donated almost $2,000 to local charities in the past two years.
Given her compassionate personality, it is no surprise that Nikeya has found a way to give back to her community. What may come as a surprise, though, is that Nikeya is only 11 years old.
Before she could walk or talk, Nikeya already had a keen humanitarian spirit. Her father, Craig Tankard, remembers when his daughter was 1½ years old and was brought to tears watching an infomercial about starving children. “We were watching TV and she just started crying, and I was like, How does she even know at that age what is going on?” he said.
Bracelet making is one of many artistic pursuits for Nikeya, who paints, draws, and plays the violin. She enjoyed looking up tutorials on YouTube, trying new patterns with her friends, and selling the bracelets to her parents for allowance money.
But when an earthquake struck her mother’s home country of Nepal in April 2015, Nikeya’s benevolent heart wouldn’t let her sit idly by. She decided to act. Using her well-cultivated bracelet-making skills, she started selling her jewelry for $1 to her classmates at the Oak Bluffs School.
Within five days she sold out, and had to begin making more. By the end of May, she had $300 to donate to a Nepal earthquake relief fund through the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. The Hebrew Center recognized Nikeya’s efforts at a relief fundraising dinner, where she stood up and explained her altruistic endeavor.
“I feel really happy to know that I’m giving back,” Nikeya said, “even though sometimes I’m really nervous when they make me go up onstage.”
The doors of the Hebrew Center had barely closed behind her when Nikeya started on her next bracelet fundraiser.
St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven, where the Tankards are members, traditionally organizes a Christmas gift donation through the Red Stocking Fund for deserving kids on the Island. Every year, Nikeya selected a handful of children’s names — she didn’t feel it was necessary to limit herself to just one person.
When it came time to chose a charity for her next bracelet sale, she thought about the children on that list and decided to give to the Red Stocking Fund.
Between December 2015 and May 2016, Nikeya sold enough bracelets to raise $600 for the Red Stocking Fund. But she didn’t stop there. She continued to work throughout the next year, and in December 2016 she donated another $1,000 to the fund. That’s a lot of bracelets.
Now Nikeya has enough of a revenue stream to buy her own supplies, and ships orders out of state to family and friends. She will spend the remainder of the year making and selling bracelets, and plans to donate to the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Society in addition to the Red Stocking Fund this year.