When we were preparing to launch StandUpSpeakUp.ca, I knew that I wanted to add some new products that would really speak to the vision that we had for this site. We were switching our focus quite a bit, focusing more on our customers and what small things we could do to support them and our community rather than tackling large issues and advocacy. I knew that we could have a greater impact and it felt like a more authentic space for the community we were attracting, but I still wanted us to hold the same ideals of promoting allyship and getting out of your comfort zone to speak up for others. So, this is the story of how I, with the help of my dear friend and gemstone expert Cheryl, came up with our four Ally Collection Jewelry Sets.
As I looked at my son Zach, who I am so proud to also call my business partner, I never focused on the marks he got at school or the trophies he had won. What makes me proud is his kind heart and his drive to find any way he can to put good in the world and how he positively affects the lives of others.
I first started to see how much my own actions could affect others when I began volunteering with my great dane Nucky for a pet therapy program. We were working with at-risk youth and I not only saw how Nucky’s presence and unconditional love could change their day and outlook on life, but also how foreign their upbringing and lives really were to me and how much I didn’t understand. I saw how much I needed to listen and learn before I could really help.
I think this discovery of my own ignorance and misconceptions was my first step to becoming an ally. I realized it was more than just giving money or even time. It meant becoming a part of a wider community and owning how all of the choices I make can influence others and how my position can be used to help or hurt, oftentimes without me even noticing.
When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my life and priorities shifted once again. I started to think about my own legacy and what I wanted to leave behind for my family and those in my community. I started fighting my compulsion to “succeed” and started thinking of how I could use my position, resources and the time that I have left to make as much positive change as possible.
What eventually came out of this was this company – one where our focus is donating as much money as possible to small organizations that are doing important work on the ground. When we were creating our products, I wanted something that could be a symbol for anyone of what it means to be an ally. Something you could look to for strength, inspiration and support when needed and would show their passion and the beauty of connecting to others.
If you approach others with kindness and care, you will see them reflected in you and all of the similarities you share, instead of differences that cause division. You will feel encouraged to listen to all of the different perspectives with a sense of wonder and curiosity and will be more willing to challenge your own inherent beliefs that might be helping to fuel injustice and inequality.
Zach and I have both seen the work that allies and advocates do on a daily basis for others. We have been inspired by community leaders, like Jane Kovarikova at Child Welfare PAC. There are so many areas where we need conscious allies to do their part to achieve change.
I met with my friend Cheryl Labbett, who has years of experience in the jewelry business to discuss what we could do. She helped me design an ally pendant and studs using my own handwriting. We accompanied those with four different gemstones to symbolize key areas of advocacy:
Emerald for Human Rights
Ruby for Women’s Rights
Opal for Children’s Rights
Sapphire for Mental Health Rights
I hope that you will consider added one of these pieces into your own wardrobe to help harness your own power as an ally and advocate. It is our passions that make us strong and vibrant people and show us our path in the world. It is our commitment to kindness and goodness that allows is to thrive and grow.