Friends, I tell this story so many times during the year, but when I sit down to write it I can’t think of the right words to say. It’s like I’ve never done this before and it’s all new to me. So basically, if you know me or have visited me at craft shows and have heard the Lucky Strength Elephant story in person, it was probably a lot better than this!
When I was first learning how to sew, I had no intentions of opening a business or even really selling things to make money. It was more so for me, I really wanted to learn how to sewing clothing, but of course grandma said we needed to start with something easier. So I searched Pinterest for different patterns & tips. I ended up finding an elephant pattern. It was simple, for beginners & really cute. We sewed it up together one day & planned to give it to my cousin, who had recently had a daughter. Little did I know it would turn into something so much more than a beginner project.
The Beginning of Something Beautiful
So for those of you that don’t know, which is probably 99.9% of you, my youngest sister was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder at a young age. For all you medical geeks, it’s called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. That other .1% that already knows is probably my fam. Anyway, now I’m just rambling because like I was saying, I’m horrible at writing about this. My sister had to get blood tests almost every week and each time they would draw blood, she’d get a poke pillow (stuffed animal). Now, the lab I work in gives stickers, so for them to get an actual animal is pretty sweet in my opinion.
For real, back to the story. It seemed that all of a sudden over night it was on my heart to use these elephants as a way to give back. Right then and there was where the Lucky Strength Elephant was born. Well, not exactly. It was just an elephant without a name at this point.
Luck, Strength, Elephants, What?
I did a lot of research next. Okay, not really when you compare it to something like the research papers I did in college. But, I began to read about elephants & what they symbolized to people. There is an overwhelming amount of info about how they are meant to symbolize luck & strength. Now is when they were officially born as the Lucky Strength Elephant! I didn’t really know what they were meant to do yet, but I knew it would be an adventure & I knew they had a name.
The Elephant’s Purpose
So now they finally had a name. I knew I wanted to donate one elephant back to someone or the hospital after one was purchased. I knew I wanted to be able to give back with them, but now what? The things I did know: These animals were meant to bring people joy. Have you watched Marie Kondo? When you hold this item in your hands, it should make you feel joy. If you’re thinking, “Ashley, what are you talking about?” You should probably go watch Tidying Up on Netflix.
Again with the rambling. The things I didn’t know far outweighed the things I knew. I had no idea who would buy them. I had no idea how many I would be able to sell. I had no idea who I would be able to donate them back to. I was kind of out of answers, but I knew I needed to figure them out. And fast considering they had been posted to my business page.
Rejection, Rejection, Acceptance
I thought finding a hospital to donate the elephants back to would be easy peasy lemon squeezy. I mean really, who doesn’t like free stuff? Actually, finding a hospital to donate to proved to be harder than just writing an email and scheduling a time to drop off.
The first email was to Helen Devos. It’s the hospital my sister had gone to & I had a dream to work there someday (keep in mind this all started in 2016 during my fantasies of becoming a doctor). So I wrote the email. Within a few days I got a response, it was rejection. I’ll spare you the details, but it basically said at this time they weren’t able to take them, etc. Legit, I almost gave up. I was like okay, this is the end, I wasn’t actually meant to do this. I’m kind of dramatic if you haven’t noticed.
So there was another rejection in there. I can’t even remember where it was from; pretty much it’s blocked from my memory. Then I wrote an email to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital & got the acceptance I was looking for! Proof that if you just keep trying, someone will finally say yes! I think we ended up donating a total of 50 elephants to the hospital.
Strength in Numbers
In the spring of 2017 my sister, the middle one, was apart of a Dance Marathon team at GVSU so we thought up a plan to get the elephants in involved. Grandma and I sewed so many elephants. Mom, Grandma & I drove up to GVSU, setup a table and sold elephants. This was our first encounter with Dance Marathon and certainly wont be our last.
Last year, 2018, we attended the Hope College Dance Marathon with the same intention, to sell elephants to be able to donate a larger quanity back to the hospital. We again sewed until our fingers hurt, got up early & set up our table. This time, they wanted me to speak in front of their dancers (like hundreds of people my age). So I got up & I spoke. It was all said a little too fast & I probably rambled, but I did it. I fully believe in doing at least once thing that terrifies you every once in a while.
Jump forward to 2019. This year we are really doing the thing & spreading the cause. We are really excited to have a table at Hope College Dance Marathon, Calvin College Dance Marathon & Michigan State University Dance Marathon! I have plans to get up on stage at two of the marathons this year to speak! I’m hoping to be a little more calm & collected with my thoughts this time around!
Called to Give
I feel 100% blessed to have started this journey with the elephants. They have brought people joy, moved them to tears & have led me to unexpected places. I feel honored to be able to personally send out elephants to kids as well as take them in big bunches to the hospital to be distributed.
Since 2016, we have donated to the following:
- Helen Devos Children’s Hospital – We finally got in!
- C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
- Kiddos on Facebook with support pages
- Featured families at Dance Marathon
We have also had the pleasure of the following:
- Feature article in the Ferris State Torch
- Feature on MI West Michigan with Lauren Stanton
- Hosting a huge fundraiser for a local West Michigan woman to pay for her medical bills!
We’re hoping someday to be able to speak with Good Morning America & Ellen about our cause! They say it takes a village to raise kids, well friends, it also takes a village to support a cause. So from me to my village, thank you!