Michelle is an example of a Personal Hero that chose to turn a situation that at first seemed devastating and find the beauty in it. Through doing this she has created an amazing life and has made a difference in the lives of many others. Here is her story...
Littlest Warrior Apparel was inspired by my son Eli who is my biggest hero.
We found out when I was 20 weeks pregnant that Eli had a heart defect and his intestines were blocked. Both those things pointed to Down Syndrome as well, so we had a blood test to confirm.
He was born full term via c section weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces.
When I heard him cry, relief washed over me. A nurse brought him over and I got to kiss him before they rushed him to the NICU.
He had his first surgery at 2 days old to unblock his intestines, then it was an agonizing long 2 days before I could hold him again. He was able to come home after only 12 days in the NICU. Then the next 6 months was a waiting game for his open heart surgery to repair his AV canal defect. After countless visits to the cardiologist for echocardiograms it was time.
Handing them over to the surgeons that day knowing that I may never see my baby boy again, was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.
But the surgery was successful and he amazed us again by coming home after only 6 days in the hospital. Eli is exactly who God wanted him to be and exactly what He knew our family needed. I will never be the same and my 3 daughters will grow up to be kind and compassionate advocates and for that I am grateful. Eli is a gift that keeps on giving :)
After his heart surgery I was looking forward to connecting with other moms who have kids with special needs. I also needed to find a way to earn an income and be able to stay at home with Eli so I could take him to all his doctor and therapy appointments and the thought of a shirt business to spread awareness and inclusion really sounded great to me!
I started Littlest Warrior back in January 2015 and I am blown away by the outpouring of love and support we have received!
My very first design was the Holland Tour guide tee because I read the Welcome to Holland story about what it's like having a child with special needs when I was pregnant with Eli and it brought me great comfort. Many of the shirts I've designed have been inspired by things that Eli has experienced like when he had to wear a helmet to correct the shape of his head. His head became misshaped because he couldn't do tummy time after his heart surgery for 6 weeks. So I wanted a fun tee for his time wearing the helmet, so I created "Helmet Hair, Don't Care" The last thing I wanted was for people to feel sorry for him or for us so I design my tees with awareness, inclusion and joy in mind. I love that when we wear Littlest Warrior t-shirts, they end up being conversation starters and that's a great way to spread awareness!
Every month I donate 10% of sales to a family in need with help with medical bills, or a family adopting a child with special needs or to a foundation that helps kids with special needs.
One thing that I wasn't expecting when I started Littlest Warrior was the sense of community. It makes my heart so happy when I see parents of kids with the same diagnosis connecting on Instagram and tagging me saying that they found each other through a Littlest Warrior post.
In the future (when I have time haha) I'd love to have a blog that features a new kid each month and spreads awareness about what they experience. It's amazing to me how many medical conditions I had never heard of before starting Littlest Warrior.
Michelle has created an amazing community around her inspiring tshirts! You can find her over on Instagram or her website. Thank you Michelle and Eli for your work in spreading awareness while advocating for inclusion. You are both Personal Heroes!
Who is your Personal Hero? Share your message. Each month we choose a Personal Hero that has been nominated to receive one of our Personal Hero Gratitude Bracelets.
Browse our gifts of intention + gratitude
to spread some love and kindness out into the world.