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MURPHY, North Carolina (WRAL) – A 9-year-old boy from North Carolina posted his tree house on Airbnb.
Eli Sylvester and his mother Rachel recently put their tree house up for rent on the popular travel website. Since then, it has been a popular place for families looking for a vacation.
Located on his family’s 5 acre property in Murphy, the tree house has a bedroom and bathroom. There is a double bed that doubles as a couch and a loft upstairs with two single beds.
A few years ago Eli told his mother that he wanted to build a tree house so he could climb up and “shoot Nerf rifles from the trees and play spies”.
“I didn’t know that you couldn’t just put plywood in the trees. You really have to have braces, ”said Rachel Sylvester. “It’s quite a structure that needs to be in there to support the people who are walking around.”
Rachel saw it as a teaching moment and encouraged Eli to find ways to fund the project.
Eli borrowed $ 200 from his mother to open his own little shop selling handicrafts like small, hollowed-out chicken eggs with birdseed and picture frames.
After the first $ 200, Eli paid off his debt and began investing his profits in building his dream tree house.
Eli raised about $ 1,500 to pay for the tree house floor.
“We have to protect this floor. It’s very expensive, which means we need a roof. And if you have a roof, you need walls,” said Rachel Sylvester.
One point led to another, and a year and a half later the family had invested $ 4,800 in the project.
With such a beautiful tree house, Eli wanted to find a way to make a profit and help others. His mother already ran an Airbnb, so he knew how it worked.
“He woke me up one morning, opened my eyelid with his fingers and said ‘Mimi, are you awake?'” Rachel said. “He said, ‘I have an idea. I want to place my tree house on Airbnb next to your Airbnb, but don’t worry, we’ll share the profits.'”
The two agreed to split the profit 50-50 to cover property taxes, utilities, and medical treatment for Rachel, who suffered a traumatic brain injury several years ago.
The injury that occurred when Eli was 6 years old left Rachel with memory loss and anxiety.
“He cooked food for me when I was 6,” recalled Rachel, noting that Eli acted as a go-between for her when visitors came into her house and stood outside to talk to them to ease Rachel’s fear at the time.
These interactions helped prepare Eli for his job as an Airbnb host. Rachel said Eli loves to greet his guests and even takes care of all the cleanup after they leave.
Since it opened, Elis Treehouse has accommodated around 175 people.
While being an Airbnb host is a nice part-time job, Eli wants to use the profits to give back to the local community. He and his mother started a nonprofit, Raise the Bar, to feed 10 families for Thanksgiving and take 10 children on a full-day excursion to a fun trampoline park. Eli also hopes to use the proceeds to provide 50 gifts for children in need for Christmas.
Eli was inspired by the kindness the community showed to his family when his mother was diagnosed with COVID-19 last November.
“We had quite a lot of people sending us food during that time, but we had big, very big Thanksgiving meals delivered even for Thanksgiving,” Rachel said. “And we just had an abundance of food and we talked about how so many people don’t have that.”
In addition to food, Rachel said, people sent Eli games for one person to play on their own while his mother recovered.
The family has not forgotten that.
While Rachel has made a lot of progress since her injury, she hopes that continued treatment will help her avoid stuttering and wearing headphones due to noise sensitivity.
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