Wednesday, April 3, 2013

{one little biz} building a BIG community

Today's post will be long.... but I hope you make it through!
My brother wearing his custom orange & black Autism Awareness puzzle piece shirt

I have always been passionate about community service.  At 5 years old, while sitting in church with my family listening to someone talk about an upcoming mission trip to Mexico, I turned to my dad and said "I want to go to the hot place to build houses for people."  We went that summer.  I built community service / volunteering into an independent study class in High School.  I travelled to Mexico four times in High School - building and teaching.  I participated in and helped lead mission trips to rural farming towns to help re-build and teach.

So the fact that the little biz I started would give me the opportunity to build a {BIG community} - and help others - shouldn't surprise me.  But it does.  Every.Single.Time.
"hope" hand-stamped pendant necklace made by BellaVia
Heather, the owner of BellaVia, is my teammate / walking partner for the 2013 San Francisco SGK 3-day walk
{little means... building a BIG community}
Over the last 2 years and 3 months since Eggo in the Oven opened - I have had the opportunity to help out some amazing causes, build some BIG relationships, and truly be inspired by the strength others show in the face of adversity, as well as the support a {BIG community} - brought together by my little biz - can provide for others.

Wyatt's Warmth from the Heart custom shirts - made by Eggo in the Oven
Within a few months of opening, I was asked to design and create shirts for a couple LARGE orders / amazing causes.  I created shirts for an organization called Wyatt's Warmth from the Heart - in memory of Baby Wyatt who passed away from complications with a heart defect he was born with.  I made over 35 custom shirts / onesies and sent them out all over the United States and Canada.  I also sent a big box full of L'Eggos (legwarmers for babies / kiddos) to their organization to share with other families with kiddos in the hospital.

Lots of L'Eggos - made for WWFTH
A fellow {little biz} owner contacted me to make custom shirts for a MS walk team she was sponsoring.  I found myself up LATE at night getting the team shirts made in time for the walk - 36 shirts total!  My "screw MS" design has since been ordered on more custom shirts, and used to decorate a cake!
Stack of 36 "Screw MS" team shirts
Team JGWI's "Screw MS" custom shirts
Thanks to my {little biz} I have had the opportunity to participate in MANY auctions for great causes - hosted by other small businesses, or on my business page.  Helping raise money for Susan G. Komen, to help a friend fund an international midwifery internship, and for private causes / families.  Sewing legwarmers, pillowcases, shirts, all for amazing causes. 
Pillowcases I made for Sandy Hook Elementary

And some of these causes have completely changed me as a person.....

In early 2011 I was introduced to the Riser family.  Their daughter Eva was born far earlier than expected - around 23 weeks gestation - at just barely over 1lb.  I am so grateful that Anya, Eva's mom, found my page and we started chatting about some custom items for their little miracle baby.  When I first "met" them Eva was still in the hospital - she would spend most of her first 10 months of life in the hospital - home only for a few quick days, only to have complications occur that would land her right back in the hospital.
Eva Ann - with her personalized security blanket made by me (her first Eggo in the Oven blankie!)
The Risers fought for their daughter from day one - and I witnessed what amazing advocates they were for their daughter - a baby that doctors did not expect to live longer than 8 hours.  Through numerous surgeries, countless long nights / days in the hospital, they never gave up.  I participated in multiple online auctions that helped raise money to do what we could to help with the MASSIVE medical bills they faced.

There is a day in November of 2011 that I will never forget.  Eva had undergone very serious surgery, and had come out of surgery successfully.  Then, things started going terribly wrong.  Over the course of the day, she coded (needing resuscitation / intervention) many times.  I was in almost constant contact with Anya.  This family, a family I had never met, was going through one of the worst days of their lives - and with what they had gone through over the last ten months, that was saying a LOT.

My husband came home to me sitting on the couch, laptop open, tears pouring down my face.  We had talked earlier in the day, and he knew what was going on.  The very first thing he said as he walked in the door was "So when can you be on a plane?"  A plane?

We had talked earlier about the fact that the Risers didn't have a support system nearby - it was just George, Anya, and Eva.  Living at the Ronald McDonald House.  Spending all day every day in the ICU with their daughter.  George driving hours to go to work each day.  How I wished we lived closer and could sit there with them - even though I was a stranger, I knew they'd be able to feel the love I had for their family.  But they were in Pittsburgh, I was in Seattle.  With a just-turned-1-year-old.  There was no way.

But not even 24 hours later I was on a plane.  I had dropped off Colby at a friend's house (leaving him for the first time), Jimmy had made arrangements to take the next day off work, and I was flying to Pittsburgh.  To show them they were loved.  To show them they were not alone.  To support them in any way I could.  I announced my departure on my business page, and had numerous donations sent my way before I had landed - to help with groceries, or take them to coffee, or do whatever was necessary. 
Me, George, Anya, and Eva - Pittsburgh Children's Hospital - November 2011
Eva was wearing L'Eggos, and surrounded by at least 3 blankets made by me at all times!  The one with the butterflies I made the night before I flew out!

.... all because of this little biz that I had started reluctantly, and never imagined would create such a {BIG community}

The weekend I spent in Pittsburgh was amazing, life-changing, tough, scary, emotionally draining yet uplifting all at the same time.  I was greeted at the airport by Anya - with a HUGE hugs and yes, definitely some tears.  I felt like I had known her my whole life.  The Risers welcomed me with open arms, and showed me a love I have never experienced.  I was a stranger.  Some crazy lady from Seattle.  Who had invaded their space.  We spent most of the weekend in Eva's room.  The nurses and staff got to know me.  I held Eva's little hand as she lay sedated in her little hospital bed.  I watched, helpless, as her oxygen levels dipped too low and alarms went off all around us.  I ate chocolate and stayed up late talking with Anya. 

"Today I met the Diva. To me she is like royalty.... I am in awe of her strength. She is adorable in photos, but even more beautiful in person. She gave my fingers little squeezes, opened her eyes to say hi, and snuggled with the new blankies I brought her. My heart is full.
I have passed along love, hugs, and kisses, and will continue to all weekend! "
~ November 11, 2011 ~ 

My time in Pittsburgh reminded me that even when I don't want to continue forward with my business (yes, there have been times that has been the case) - I must.  Because without Eggo in the Oven, I never would've met the Risers.  I never would have witnessed, in person, the strength and love they show every day.
A few months later, I was able to travel to West Virginia to help celebrate Eva's first birthday.  She was home, she was doing well, and there was SO much to celebrate.  I brought Colby with me on this trip, and we had a wonderful time.

Colby and Eva - January 2011
Eva is wearing a custom onesie dress I made - with Bow L'Eggos
Eva (read about her below) wearing her custom birthday onesieL'Eggos, and headband (made by RubyKinz Hair Accessories) in front of her birthday gift from the {BIG} Eggo in the Oven community - a blanket made from squares sent to me from all over the USA / Canada - with messages from people inspired by her strength and story!
Most recently, I hosted a HUGE auction to benefit Susan G. Komen as part of the fundraising my friend Heather, owner of BellaVia, and I are doing to participate in the SGK 3-day walk.  In June, we will be walking 60 miles over the course of three days, to raise money and awareness for Breast Cancer research.  When she mentioned participating, I didn't hesitate to sign up as well.  I was confident that the {BIG community} Eggo in the Oven has created would help me reach (and surpass!) the fundraising minimum - $2300.  The walking?!  Yes, definitely still afraid of that!  Sure enough.  The auction we ran a few weeks ago raised almost $2200 in two days.  Amazing!

Me and Heather with our munchkins - during one of my visits to San Francisco - October, 2011
We will be walking together in June - back in San Francisco - participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk

My biz may be little.... but it has created a {BIG community} that will come together with just a quick post / photo / auction - to make a BIG difference.

Custom puzzle piece shirts made for a whole family!

My final post, about being {little by design.... little is AWESOME!} will be Friday.  I have enjoyed this opportunity to write and share with you about my {little biz}.  I love reading your comments - and will reply to all of them!  Have questions?!  Ask them!  I'll answer!

A recap of my {One little biz} guest blog series:

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