MOUNT VERNON — Was the derecho that rampaged huge chunks of Eastern Iowa on Aug. 10 the largest storm in young Tommy Rhomberg’s life?
“Yeah,” said the soon-to-be sixth-grader at Mount Vernon middle school. “Definitely.”
Having just celebrated his 12th birthday on Aug. 2, Rhomberg was born a month after the great flood of 2008, which would have been his closest reference.
His good buddy and baseball teammate, Walker Viessman, also has an August birthday, his falling on the day of this year’s devastating wind storm.
“I just wanted to make him a birthday gift that he could remember,” Rhomberg said. “I knew his favorite sport was baseball and I saw the perfect stick in our yard. I knew I could make a bat out of it and I started by using a knife to carve the bark off.”
Rhomberg’s father, John, found him an old hand plane which helped a lot.
“I just whittled it until it sort of looked like a bat,” Rhomberg said. “Then I took heavy-grit sandpaper and sanded it to make it smooth.”
Starting his project on Aug. 16, Rhomberg finished it in just four days, giving it to Walker the following Wednesday.
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Later that day, his mother Amanda posted a photo of the bat on Facebook and it immediately was getting shared around the internet.
“This has been so unexpected because I don’t even post that often on my account,” Amanda said. “I just wanted to remember (the bat) and take pictures of it because he was giving it away. I woke up the next morning to it going viral.”
Now the family has decided to buy a lathe so Tommy can make more bats. After his father helped him start a website, thegreatderecho.com, he already has sold four bats with a portion of the proceeds going to the Cedar Rapids Disaster Relief Fund.
The joke within the family has been that, as owners of One Mission in Mount Vernon, Tommy’s parents are always trying to raise their social media profile in order to raise money for local charities.
“I’ve been trying to figure this out this whole time and it took his bat to go viral,” Amanda said, joking. “I told him God gave him his great brain, he needs to do good with it.”
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