Writing this blog gives me the privilege to write about inspiring stories and my favorite part, my family. In the spirit of National Siblings Day I am so excited to tell everyone a little bit about one of my favorite people on this planet, my brother Steve.
As I’m writing this, I texted Steve and asked him what his favorite memory was of us growing up as siblings. Spoiler alert: he has no idea I’m writing this blog (yet) and that I’m about to use his answer. He answered “riding in those little jeeps lol..and hershey.” Those two cuties in the picture for this blog, that’s me and my brother. Yes, he drove me around in my barbie jeep as a kid without complaint. From what I remember, he always went just a little too fast trying to scare me...typical older brother tormenting. As for Hershey, he’s referring to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. That was a vacation spot our family would go almost every summer. It was always a special place to our family. We stayed in the same hotel, went to the same restaurants, same beach, and of course ALWAYS made a stop at the famous Hershey’s chocolate factory for a tour. I think I annoyed him most of the time for following him around, but I don’t think he realized at the time why. I’ve always looked up to Steve and have wanted to be just like him.
As an adult, I’ve been fortunate enough to see him overcome hardships and grow into the amazing brother, husband, son, and friend he is today. For a period of time Steve and I lived together. I was a senior at Siena College and had a hectic schedule trying to graduate early. Most nights I would come home to a cooked meal. He also knew I was a broke college kid and would slip me Starbucks gift cards every now and then. He even brought me much needed bagel sandwiches after nights I went out and had just a little too much fun. He didn’t just do these types of things for me because I was his sister, he still portrays these acts of kindness to everyone he knows.
I’ve been continuously texting Steve while writing this blog and one of the things he said to me was: “Did you know you can’t be thankful or practice gratitude and be sad/depressed at the same time?” I think we all need to be more aware of this. We spend so much time focusing on what we need or want and forget to take the time to be thankful for what’s in our life and express our gratitude. Steve’s attitude toward life is exactly what we stand for at Twill. Be kind, be thankful, and most of all, spread your kindness and gratitude to those around you.
Let me leave you all with this. Steve is the most generous, funny, and thoughtful man on God's green earth. I don’t think he realizes how big of an impact he has on all the people in his life. We’re all better people for knowing him, and we’re so lucky to have him in our lives. I know I wouldn’t be here without him. Sorry ladies, he’s happily (and super lucky) to be taken by his new beautiful wife Joanna.
Steve, if this isn’t proof enough, I love you, and I’m so lucky to call you my brother! Happy Siblings Day y’all!
As many of you know, we at Twill announced a global partnership with the Australian supermodel, Madeline Stuart. Madeline, aged 20, is also the first adult supermodel with Down Syndrome and has spent the last two years breaking down barriers, changing perceptions of people with disabilities and inspiring the world to achieve their dreams, truly becoming an advocate for love, beauty and inclusion in all shapes, sizes and manners. Maddy has walked in fashion shows around the world from Australia, Paris, China, Dubai, Russia and New York City to name a few. In the past two years, her social media has grown to nearly a million followers and has a 55 billion online readership.
To kick off the partnership, we at Twill and Madeline will jointly release a brand new promotional video alongside the Maddy by Twill Aurora beanie, a cozy and brightly colored hat that highlights Madeline’s infectious personality and love for life. The beanie launched Tuesday, March 21st, 2017, World Down Syndrome Day and is available for purchase at www.myTwill.com. A portion of each purchase will benefit individuals with disabilities.
“I met Madeline in the fall of 2016 and there was an instant connection,” Jer Halloran, CFO and co-founder of Twill said. “To see our relationship grow to what it is today and to be able to work with Madeline to launch this beanie is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
”From the minute we met Madeline in the fall of 2016, we knew she was someone incredibly special,” Zac Halloran, Founder and CEO of Twill said. “Her story is one of determination and dreaming big, two characteristics that embody the Twill spirit. There is no dream too far out of reach, and we are excited to work with Madeline to help share that message with as many people as possible.”
Maddy’s career officially started when she attended a Fashion Parade in Australia in late 2015 with her mom Rosanne. She turned to her mom and said the magic words: “mum me model”. Rosanne knew that Madeline would not give up on her dream and with hard work, dedication and support, her dreams came to fruition.
Inspired by Madeline’s story and her commitment to healthy living, wellness and fashion, her social media presence and following quickly grew. Since uttering those magic words, Madeline has had a global presence in the modeling industry, modeling in New York Fashion Week, Art Hearts Fashion Week, Style Fashion Week, Melange Fashion Week, Caspian Fashion, Runway Dubai, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week China, Birmingham Fashion Week, Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival, and several others. In February of 2017, Madeline achieved yet another one of her dreams, launching “21 Reasons Why,” her own fashion line.
When I moved home to Albany from South Carolina the biggest reason behind it was family. I was sick of missing the little things. Family dinners, holiday cook outs, cousins birthday parties, and much more. Of course, along with that, I wanted to be here for the big things. Being home allowed me to be a part of the planning process for my brother’s wedding on New Years Eve. That’s an experience I will always appreciate. People always say, take the good with the bad. With so much good, I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the “bad”, but it’s all in God’s hands right? On Thursday night, God decided it was my great aunt’s time to leave us.
I saw my Aunt Connie a lot growing up. Her husband was my grandmother’s brother and they spent a lot of time at her house. I think something my entire family will remember about my aunt and uncle is their generosity. I saw them almost every Sunday, and on almost every Sunday each of them would find a way to slip me five or 10 bucks before I left my grandma’s house. It was then usually followed up by “grab yourself an ice cream” or “buy yourself a slice of pizza”...typical Italian family always having food on the brain. As a kid at 10 or 11 years old, getting 10 dollars to spend on whatever you wanted was like hitting the lottery. I can’t tell you what I ever ended up buying with the money, but I can tell you that looking back now that money meant a lot more than some ice cream or pizza.
Aunt Connie was a woman of many traits and talents. Today I learned that she loved to draw and write. It really got me thinking how I spent so much time with her over the past 24 years of my life, and I even went to college for writing and communications, and I never once talked to her about that particular passion of mine. To hear that she wrote memoirs and short stories really got me to thinking where I want to take my writing. My cousin Randy even shared a very special memory that I thought those of you who have attended college and had to write a lengthy term paper would appreciate. During his freshman or sophomore year at Siena, Randy was taking one of two mandatory religion classes. He went to have dinner with my Aunt Connie and when she asked him how college was going, he told her how he had to write a term paper on baptism and went into a little bit more detail on what exactly he had to write about. That Friday, Aunt Connie called Randy and simply said “your term paper is done.” When Randy went over the next day to figure out what she was talking about, she had written an eight page, single-spaced, handwritten term paper on baptism for him. That’s a college kids dream!The point is, I think sometimes we underestimate what people in our world are capable of. I’m not saying Aunt Connie wasn’t talented, but did I think at around the age of 70 she’d be writing an eight page college paper? Definitely never crossed my mind.
I’m writing this blog just hours after we buried her and heard the stories of her life. As my brother and I drove to the grave site, it had us talking about what a legacy she left behind. My brother said something that stuck with me. He said, “Aunt Connie left us knowing she created a beautiful and successful family. It makes me wonder what I’ll leave behind one day.” Aunt Connie left behind so much good. I know when I joined the Twill team I wanted to create more of that “good” in our community. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we forget to take a step back from it all and really appreciate the little things. For us as a Twill team, I don’t think we give our partners enough credit. All their special traits and talents help us grow, and with that growth comes more giving to the people that need it most.
Hello again to my blog friends! This month is super exciting for Twill as we’ve been putting the final touches on a very special project!
To our purple family reading, this is extra special for you! We have teamed up with the University at Albany to design a fully licensed, official UAlbany + Twill beanie. For every beanie purchased, a portion of the proceeds will go directly to local organizations, Jammin for JP and Friends of Jaclyn.
Jammin for JP and Friends of Jaclyn were both started because of two amazing young people worth learning a little more about.
At the age of three, JP’s parents noticed although he loved sports, he was very clumsy and was struggling in school. Despite battling continuous roadblocks it is clear to see that JP's parents are true rockstars. They sent him to a vision therapist weekly after noticing his eyes didn’t move up and down and spent hours researching his symptoms all while trying to change his diet and get him started on different vitamins and foods. In 2013, they met with his neurologist and from there the family was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital. Ultimately it was Mollie, JP's sister, who chimed in to save the day. She told the doctor at the hospital that when JP laughed he tended to lose control of his head and shoulders. JP went through more testing and he continued experiencing similar symptoms and eventually was put on seizure medication. Ultimately his family was sent back to Boston where JP was finally diagnosed with the very rare Niemann Pick Type C disease. Jammin for JP helps raise awareness, support others that are fighting similar battles as JP and helps ensure he can live life to the fullest extent despite the obstacles and difficulties he faces each day. To read all the details of this disease, you can go directly to JP’s website by clicking here.
In 2004, nine year old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Though she was young, she stayed fierce and brave. Through chance events, Jaclyn became connected to a collegiate lacrosse team and was soon after adopted as an honorary team member. Her joy for life inspired the players she grew close to with the team going on to a perfect season, winning their first NCAA national championship in 64 years! Talk about a miracle! Jaclyn’s work wasn’t done there! She later shared her dream of helping all of the sick children in the hospital. In 2005, Jaclyn and her family created the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors, allowing them to live in the moment.
We are unbelievably inspired by each of these organizations, JP and Jaclyn and the countless lives they've touched. Through all his struggles, JP still gets up and goes to school and is willing to try his best. His family hopes to continue helping other families trying to battle the disease by hosting events and raising money.
Today, Friends of Jaclyn has helped nearly 700 families with brain tumors and other childhood cancers. The foundations mission is to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors. Through their three programs, Adopt-A-Child, Safe on the Sidelines and Guardian Angel Programs, they pair an afflicted child and their siblings with local sports teams, campus clubs, and arts programs in their community. To learn more about how you can be a part of this foundation, click here.
I don’t know about all of you reading this, but just hearing their story has inspired me to get out and help the community any way I can. What’s even cooler about all this is the fact that you can help these foundations AND get a gift in return by purchasing one of our beanies. If that’s not a win-win situation, I’m not sure what is! For those of you reading this that aren’t UAlbany fans (I’m a Siena Saint myself)...swallow your pride and do the right thing!
Pre-sale has officially started, so head on over to www.mytwill.com to grab your limited-edition beanie before they sell out!
Till next time, thanks for reading!