Like most kids, my dad was my hero. Not just because he served his country in uniform, but because he showed up, every single day for his family. He taught me to ride a bike, took me to Yankee games, bought me a heavy bag (even though the house shook when I hit it) when I was in a boxing phase, wrestled with me and my friends, and encouraged my creative side.
Growing up, my father didn't have the money for college so he started his own business. The hours were long and he spent many months of the year on the road. He did so many things by hand that could easily be done today by a computer. Despite all this, he always, always made time for me and my sister.
And isn't that the very definition of a hero?
In 2005, I started working for JWT, the Marine Corp's long time advertising agency. In this role, I was the lead writer and Creative Director for recruitment advertising for the United States Marine Corps.
Every time I’d go to a Marine base to film a commercial, I’d bring my then 5 year old daughter back a small gift from the Marine Exchange. At the time, she was having trouble sleeping - bad dreams, fear of the dark, monsters under the bed.
So I bought her a teddy bear and told her a story.
I said, “This is Marine bear, and for 200 years he’s protected our nation. And now he’s going to protect you while you sleep.”
“What if he falls asleep?” she asked.
“He’s a Marine. He would never fail his mission!”
That night, we put the Marine bear on duty and she slept like a bear in hibernation.
That's when I knew that if it could help her, it could help thousands of other kids too.
In the seven years I spent working with the Marines, I rode in Ospreys, fired M16s, traveled the country with the Silent Drill Platoon, watched new recruits step on the yellow footprints at Parris Island, presented to Commandants at the Pentagon and more. But perhaps the thing that had the most lasting impact on me were the families.
I guess I had never realized that when someone serves, so too does their family. So when I started ZZZ Bears, I knew I wanted to give back to this underserved and underappreciated group of warriors - the families of those who serve.
Today, we partner with a wonderful organization called TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) to donate bears to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.
In 2020, as a devastating pandemic shook the world, a new class of hero emerged - doctors, nurses, teachers, truck drivers and postal workers.
I had always planned on expanding our line of bears at some point. In fact, we had already added community protectors - police and fire - to our line-up in 2018. But the events of 2020 really put a spotlight on these new heroes and the time for us to celebrate them felt right.
We added doctors and nurses and our wonderful customers responded with overwhelming support.
We know that their are many heroes for whom we don't yet have a bear. The simple fact is that as a small business, we just aren't able to roll out new bears as quickly as we'd like. Rest assured though, they're coming!
When you email us, it's me who responds.
When you start an online chat, it's me again.
When you comment on our social media, still me.
I'll be the first to admit, it can all be a little overwhelming at times. After all, I have a full-time job too. But it's your support and kind words that inspire me to keep going. Please feel free to email me - firstname.lastname@example.org - any time. I truly love hearing from you
And thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you, and for all your support along the way. Every day I continue to learn!
PS, if you've read this far, thank you! (There should really be a medal for that.)