People Making A Difference: Who is Stevie Hopkins?

By Chris Rohan, Former Publisher, Disabled Dealer Magazine

There are a lot of people out there that talk about trying to change the attitude of people regarding disability. Then there is Stevie Hopkins who not only talks about it, he is doing something about it.

It all started in 2004 when his sister, Annie created the "wheelchair heart symbol" for a dorm t-shirt.

Stevie Hopkins

At that time, neither of them had any clue what they had stumbled onto nor fully grasped the potential and meaning of Annie's creation. In 2007, they incorporated 3E Love and the wheelchair heart or the "International Symbol of Acceptance." It is a symbol of society accepting people with disabilities as equals; a symbol that people with disabilities accept their challenges and even embrace them. 3E Love promotes this message tirelessly through their clothing and other merchandise that features the symbol.

On January 20, 2009, Annie passed away due to unexpected complications during a simple medical procedure. Her memory lives on in the hearts of her friends and family, and it also lives on in the heart of the International Symbol of Acceptance.

I caught up with Stevie to get his take on his life, his passions and where 3E Love is going.

Chris: Tell me about yourself. Who is Stevie Hopkins?

Stevie: I am a proud man with a disability, but my disability doesn't define me, though it is a huge part of my daily life. I am a serial entrepreneur who loves to create things. I really enjoy taking an idea and actually doing something with it. I have started close to 10 businesses since I was 15 with varying levels of success. I finally found something in 3ELove that is in my heart, and I plan on sticking with it for the rest of my life.

Chris: How would you describe yourself?

Stevie: Passionate, hard-working, ridiculous and curious.

Chris: What is your passion? What keeps you going?

Stevie: Life and seeing what is possible. Belief that I can contribute something awesome to the world around me and that my hard work will create opportunities and personal happiness.
Hope that things will improve if I put my all into it.

Chris: Where do you see yourself in a year?

Stevie: I'm not sure. I only plan like 3 months out. I live for the moment and build on little achievements that turn into larger ones.

Chris: What are your goals?

Stevie: To start a family. Financial independence from family and government. To travel the world.

Chris: How many employees do you have?

Stevie: Seven full-time and a few part-time

3eLove Products at Abilities Expo.

Chris: If you could talk to your sister right now, what do you think she would say about the 3E Company?

Stevie: She would probably want it to be brighter and more fun. I don't have enough parties for her liking. I'll get there. Means to an end. She would be super excited about the opportunities there are and would want to work three days without sleep.

Chris: Do you want to stay with clothes, jewelry and other merchandise items that you can utilize your logo and other inspirational sayings? What other things have you thought about?

Stevie: I will always stay with it because it's our bread and butter. But I have bigger plans

Chris: How do you think you can improve your company?

Stevie: More delegation and efficiency on operations. A better website to explain our social message. More user-driven content throughout marketing material.

Stevie believes that by wearing their products, you become part of a movement that is slowly changing the social perception of disability. Our mission, Stevie says, is idealistic and worldwide in scope, but we know that it is working every hour through conversations that are ignited by people.

To conclude, I want to share something that Stevie wrote on his Facebook page:

There are only a few days that you will truly remember every detail for the rest of your life. Extreme emotions of fear, regret, pain, sadness, love, laughter, joy, trauma and hope are just a few that will permeate your entire being and change you forever.

January 16th, 2009...

...I ate cafeteria chicken for two meals because I needed something to dip into the best thing on their menu, Frank's Red Hot Sauce.

...I ate one of those meals with my best friend Amber, who would within a few hours welcome into the world her first niece or nephew.

...I played online poker while listening to Katy Perry's new album on repeat.

...I learned that my sister had her nipples pierced.

…I went to bed around 3am and cuddled with my cat Mercks for the first time.

I know this all, because on January 16th, 2009, on the 13th floor in a hospital in Chicago...

...The possibility that I would outlive my sister and face the world without her became a real possibility. This was the day that, after 10 days of begging doctors to believe that something was seriously wrong with her, they finally believed us. This was the day they realized they made a little mistake and she was dying of infection. They weren't going to give up and they rushed her to surgery and told her that there was a good chance she would never wake up or that they wouldn't be able to fix her. At what had to be the scariest moment of her life, in tears, she faced her fears in Annie-like fashion. She lifted her gown and flashed the surgical team that would do their best to save her life, negotiating with a shocked and blushing doctor over the value of her brand new piercing if he removed them in the operating room.

Annie knew how to live for the moment. Annie always believed that everything would be okay. Annie would use any opportunity she could to break down barriers and educate others that she wouldn't let her challenges stop her from enjoying life.

In those moments and many more over the next 4 days, I would painfully begin to learn the value of true love, the meaning of life and that, when you are more alone than you've ever been, sadder than you ever thought you could be, you can still be filled with joy and hope for the future.

On January 16, 2009, Annie began to teach me what it means to accept my challenges and I would begin to love my life....

Five years later I am still her student.

Thank you, Stevie, for sharing this.

For more on 3E Love, visit Chris Rohan's People Making a Difference column appears periodically in the Buzz.

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