CLOSINGS: View Closings

An Iowa boy is selling baseball bats he makes from fallen trees to raise money for storm victims

After a powerful wind storm struck Iowa...

Posted: Nov 21, 2020 6:39 PM

After a powerful wind storm struck Iowa in August, the city of Mount Vernon was left covered in fallen trees and other debris.

That's when 12-year-old Tommy Rhomberg stepped up to the plate.

Using fallen branches, Tommy designed and carved more than 200 baseball bats, which he sold to raise money for victims of the widespread wind storm, known as a derecho. For each bat sold for $100, he donated $20 to the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.

Tommy came up with the idea on the day of the storm, which happened to be his best friend's birthday. Knowing Walker Viessman's love for baseball -- and surrounded by fallen trees from the storm -- Tommy decided to gift his friend a hand-carved bat.

"This is just Tommy," Amanda Rhomberg, Tommy's mom, told CNN. "He's always been super creative and loves building stuff. He woke up at 6 a.m. to work on it over the course of a few days until it was perfect. When I saw it, my jaw just dropped."

Amanda says Tommy made the bat using his grandfather's whittling tools and sand paper, and that he worked until his hands were covered in blisters.

Viessman, also 12, was amazed by his friend's thoughtful gift.

"I didn't expect anything for my birthday, but when Tommy brought me the bat he made me, I was so excited and thankful I have that great of a friend," Viessman told CNN. "It was so nice of him to spend that much time making me a bat for my birthday."

After Amanda posted photos of the bat on Facebook, the post went viral and hundreds of people asked if Tommy could make them bats.

Before long, Tommy's parents bought a lathe to help him carve more bats, which he calls "The Great Derecho," and designed a website where he can sell them. They also helped him come up with the idea to use a portion of the proceeds to help neighbors impacted by the storm.

"I wanted to make my friend Walker a bat for his birthday," Tommy said. "I had no idea lots of other people would want one too. I like being able to help, and I'm glad if people don't have money to rebuild they can use some of the money donated from the bats instead."

After buyers place an order, the self-taught woodworker begins by taking a fallen log to a nearby farm, where it's cut into smaller pieces. His dad then saws the pieces into octagons before Tommy finally lathes them into bats.

"I don't know how his little hands can do so much," Amanda said. "He has put in hundreds of hours into making these bats. I am so proud of him for teaching himself a new skill and starting a business while doing so much good. He shows that you can make a difference in your corner of the world by doing what you can with what you have."

The bats, which are about 30 inches long, can't be used to play baseball, as the fallen wood will crack as the wood dries over time. But people can keep them as "a little memento from the storm," Amanda said.

Tommy has a waiting list of more than 600 people who want to buy one of his bats.

While he isn't sure how many more he'll make -- "I am 12 years old and my parents won't let me drop out of the 6th grade," he said -- interested buyers can track his progress on Facebook.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295001

Reported Deaths: 3535
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin624331107
Ramsey26238493
Anoka20851224
Dakota20527189
Stearns13245106
Washington13220111
St. Louis8141108
Scott798154
Wright720338
Olmsted639934
Sherburne552241
Clay473356
Carver443213
Blue Earth395813
Rice393335
Kandiyohi378719
Crow Wing344731
Nobles301429
Chisago29799
Otter Tail288820
Benton285847
Winona266629
Mower248523
Douglas242235
Polk238223
Morrison224027
Lyon206711
Beltrami202517
McLeod198511
Becker194015
Goodhue190628
Steele18336
Itasca179123
Isanti179016
Todd173912
Carlton170414
Nicollet154925
Freeborn14795
Mille Lacs145131
Le Sueur141111
Waseca135911
Cass133310
Brown131215
Pine12788
Meeker11638
Roseau11074
Hubbard107523
Martin105520
Wabasha9941
Redwood87518
Dodge8230
Chippewa8157
Watonwan8104
Cottonwood7942
Renville77322
Sibley7564
Wadena7476
Aitkin71729
Rock7149
Pipestone69618
Houston6534
Fillmore6510
Yellow Medicine61511
Pennington6137
Murray5623
Kanabec55713
Swift5448
Faribault5251
Pope5071
Clearwater4817
Stevens4813
Jackson4581
Marshall4508
Lake3916
Unassigned38659
Koochiching3675
Wilkin3605
Lac qui Parle3513
Lincoln3331
Norman3307
Big Stone2962
Mahnomen2834
Grant2566
Red Lake2033
Kittson2027
Traverse1391
Lake of the Woods941
Cook630

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 223783

Reported Deaths: 2330
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33166333
Linn13991164
Scott1100384
Black Hawk10795134
Woodbury10255124
Johnson940036
Dubuque913491
Story674921
Dallas629057
Pottawattamie617069
Sioux366725
Webster357033
Cerro Gordo349644
Marshall346345
Clinton322840
Buena Vista302214
Muscatine282668
Des Moines282419
Warren276411
Plymouth270641
Wapello251571
Jones228413
Jasper214643
Marion202919
Lee199416
Carroll196422
Bremer192612
Henry18107
Crawford174115
Benton167418
Tama153340
Jackson143013
Delaware141021
Washington138214
Dickinson135810
Boone134811
Mahaska126127
Wright12226
Buchanan115410
Clay11504
Hardin114010
Page11144
Hamilton11009
Clayton10875
Harrison106629
Cedar106213
Calhoun10607
Kossuth10426
Floyd103916
Mills10297
Fayette102210
Lyon10188
Butler9916
Poweshiek98213
Winneshiek95812
Iowa93012
Winnebago91323
Hancock8547
Louisa84916
Grundy84611
Chickasaw8424
Sac8407
Cherokee8214
Cass80222
Allamakee79011
Appanoose77910
Mitchell7794
Humboldt7635
Shelby76111
Union7576
Emmet74924
Guthrie74115
Franklin73421
Jefferson7062
Madison6764
Palo Alto6474
Unassigned6470
Keokuk5777
Pocahontas5572
Howard5489
Greene5170
Osceola5171
Ida48113
Clarke4774
Taylor4603
Davis4548
Montgomery45011
Monroe43912
Adair4298
Monona4272
Fremont3553
Van Buren3545
Worth3540
Lucas3226
Decatur3160
Audubon2952
Wayne2957
Ringgold2082
Adams1652
Rochester
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 43°
Mason City
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 44°
Albert Lea
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 44°
Austin
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 44°
Charles City
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 52°
A Sunny and Mild Saturday Expected
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Here Comes Santa Claus Drive-Thru

Image

Santa Claus Visits Rochester to Lead Drive-Thru Parade

Image

Aaron's Friday Evening Forecast

Image

Increased demand for real Christmas trees

Image

Santa visits Rochester for drive-thru parade

Image

Salvation Army needs bell ringers

Image

Search for man stalking women

Image

Downtown Alliance for shopping locally

Community Events