Bluffton kids find creative way to combat storm boredom

Amy Bredeson


Monday, Sept. 11, was a dreary day in Bluffton. Hurricane Irma had just been downgraded to a tropical storm before passing through the Lowcountry.

Children were out of school and bored. But two youngsters used the opportunity to document the storm.

Bluffton 11-year-old James Keefer decided to play news anchor, updating his viewers via Facebook videos.

James actually played several parts in the first newscast, reporting as James, "Jeffrey," "Johnson" and "Joseph" in various locations around Bluffton.

"Everybody's boarded up and ready for the storm," James reported. "To you, Jeffrey."

Enter Jeffrey, reporting from the Bluffton Oyster Company, saying it was windy and already starting to flood. Next came Johnson, who pointed out that boats had been moved to higher ground.

Finally, Joseph reported from Ben & Jerry's, where he interviewed Mr. Keefer, James' real-life dad, Daniel Keefer.

The video ended with the lights flickering and James saying, "Looks like we're losing power."

On Sept. 12, James reported that the power was back on and everything seemed OK. That's when James took a more serious tone, saying, "The one thing we need to worry about is Florida. They got hit pretty hard, and I would like you guys to pray for them."

Chris Tomlin's "How Great is Our God" played in the background as James asked viewers to call 561-650-9137, the number for the American Red Cross in Martin County, Fla.

Nine-year-old Maya Smith had a similar idea on the morning Tropical Storm Irma came through Bluffton.

Maya has become somewhat of a local celebrity for her acts of kindness. She was named one of the grand marshals of the Bluffton Christmas parade in 2016 after collecting stuffed animals for the Bluffton Police Department to distribute to children during difficult situations.

She also has been known to leave thank-you notes and drawings on the windshields of police officers' cars in Bluffton. Through her work spreading cheer in the community, Maya has become friends with Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka and gained the nickname "Mini-mayor Maya."

After seeing videos of Sulka updating residents on Tropical Storm Irma and Hurricane Matthew, Maya was inspired to do the same.

Standing on her screened-in porch on the morning of Sept. 11, Maya reported that there were strong wind gusts, trees down and some power outages in Bluffton.

"Mayor Lisa Sulka and I want to say, 'Stay away from windows and be safe,'" she said on video, which her mother, Monika Smith, later posted to Facebook.

Maya encouraged people to enjoy their time inside. "Get your coffee and hot chocolate," she said. "Snuggle, read a book and spend time with your family."

In an interview with The Bluffton Sun a week after the storm, Maya said she made the video for people who evacuated and wanted to know what was happening in Bluffton.

"I'm very thankful that we didn't get a big storm like some other people did," Maya said.

She wants to be a vet one day, but who knows? Maybe she will be mayor of Bluffton as well.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.