North Carolina boy put his treehouse on Airbnb to help support his mom and community

By Kathy Hanrahan

MURPHY, North Carolina (WRAL) – A 9-year-old boy from North Carolina put his treehouse on Airbnb.

Eli Sylvester and his mother Rachel recently listed his treehouse on the popular travel website. It has since become a popular place for families looking to get away from it all.

The treehouse, located on the 5-acre family property in Murphy, includes one bedroom and one bathroom. There is a double bed which doubles as a sofa and an upstairs mezzanine with two twin beds.

Several years ago Eli told his mother he wanted to build a treehouse so he could climb and “shoot Nerf guns in the trees and play spies.”

“I didn’t know you couldn’t just put plywood in trees. You actually have to have braces,” said Rachel Sylvester. “It’s a whole structure that has to be there to support the people walking around.”

Rachel saw it as a teaching moment, encouraging Eli to find ways to fund the project.

Eli borrowed $ 200 from his mother to open her own little store selling crafts like little hollowed-out hen eggs filled with birdseed and picture frames.

After the first profit of $ 200, Eli paid off his debt and began investing his profits in building the cabin of his dreams.

Eli raised around $ 1,500 to pay for the treehouse floor.

“We have to protect this ground. It’s very expensive, which means we need a roof. And if you have a roof, that means you need walls,” said Rachel Sylvester.

One item led to another and a year and a half later the family had invested $ 4,800 in the project.

With such a beautiful treehouse available, Eli wanted to find a way to make a profit and help others. His mom already operated an Airbnb, so he knew how it worked.

“He woke me up one morning, opening my eyelid with his fingers and said ‘Mimi, are you awake?’” Rachel said. “He said, ‘I have an idea. I want to put my treehouse on Airbnb next to your Airbnb, but don’t worry, we’ll split the profits. “”

The two have agreed to split the profits 50-50 to help cover property taxes, incidentals and medical treatments for Rachel, who suffered a head injury several years ago.

The injury, which occurred when Eli was 6, left Rachel with memory loss and anxiety.

“He was cooking meals for me at age 6,” Rachel recalls, noting that Eli acted as his go-between when visitors came to their house, standing outside to talk to them to help calm Rachel’s anxiety. that time.

These interactions helped prepare Eli for his job as an Airbnb host. Rachel said Eli loved welcoming her guests and even took care of all the cleaning after they left.

Since its opening, Eli’s treehouse has accommodated around 175 people.

While being an Airbnb host is a good side-gig, Eli wants to use the profits to give back to the local community. He and his mother started a nonprofit, “Raise the Bar,” which aims to feed 10 families for Thanksgiving and take 10 kids on a day trip to a fun trampoline park. Eli also hopes to use the proceeds to give 50 gifts to children in need this Christmas.

Eli was inspired by the kindness that community members showed to his family when his mother was diagnosed with COVID-19 last November.

“We had quite a few people sending us food during that time, but even on Thanksgiving we had big, really big Thanksgiving meals delivered,” Rachel said. “And we just had an abundance of food, and we were talking about how, like, so many people don’t.”

In addition to food, Rachel said people sent Eli games for someone he could play on his own while his mother recovered.

It is something the family has not forgotten.

Although Rachel has made a lot of progress since her injury, she is hopeful that additional treatment will help her eliminate the stuttering and the need to wear headphones when going out due to noise sensitivity.

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