One day, 12-year-old Gabriel Clark went home and told his dad, Richard Clark, that he felt a “bit down.”
Gabriel of Cumbria, England, enjoys woodworking—a wonderful hobby that unfortunately wasn’t “deemed cool” by his middle school peers, nor was having only six followers on Instagram.
He fell in love with the craft around age three or four when his mom, Teresa McCann Clark, handed the toddler his grandfather’s hammer.
“I’ve always had a real passion for it, and I’ve just taught myself everything I know,” Gabriel told PEOPLE.
As a father, Richard was upset about his son’s predicament. It was hard watching his kid struggle to fit in. Wanting to help, Richard reached out to people on the internet.
“I’ve a 12yr old who loves woodwork,” he wrote on a March 25 tweet. “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!”
Richard said Gabriel aimed for 60 followers, but that number soon rocketed into the thousands. As of writing, the British boy’s woodworking page has gained 256,000 followers!
“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.
With that increase came an avalanche of 20,000 orders for his handmade bowls. Gabriel’s calculation revealed that it would take him 32 years to fulfill such a huge number of orders, which is an impossible feat since he still has school, homework, and his workshop to manage.
So, he decided to use his newfound fame as an opportunity to share kindness.
Instead of carving 20,000 wooden bowls, he carved a special one: a bowl for Ukraine.
“I want to know that I can make other children’s lives better by doing a little bit of something in my own life,” he said.
Gabriel created a bowl made of beechwood and etched it with a blue and yellow ring—signifying the colors of the country’s flag—to raise money for Ukrainian children.
The Clark family then set up a Just Giving page for Save the Children’s Ukraine appeal and set the goal at £5,000 ($6,420).
“We are all aware of the terrible suffering that the country is currently facing and Gabriel hopes that this is a way he can pass on some of the generosity that people have shown him, to children in much greater need,” read the Just Giving page.
And like what happened to Gabriel’s Instagram page, donations kept pouring in day by day. So far, 14,123 supporters have contributed and collectively raised £254,053 ($326,191) for Ukrainian children.
Several news channels also caught wind of Gabriel’s story and invited him to do interviews, increasing his exposure and awareness of the fundraiser.
The draw was held on April 17, and the Ukraine bowl found its way to the home of donor Renuka Chapman. But even after it was over, the Clarks decided to keep the fundraiser open a little longer because more people still wanted to donate.
“The main thing about Gabriel, he’s got a really, really big heart,” said Teresa, an artist. “He’s talented, he’s creative, but more than anything, he’s got a big heart.”
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