PARKLAND, FL - Friendship and philanthropy go hand in hand for young entrepreneurs Sofia Rothenberg, 14, Hanna Guttentag, 17, and Stacey Gringauz, 16.
In the summer of 2015, Sofia attended Camp Lenox, located in the Berkshires. She spent time with Hanna's mom, Mindy, the resident arts and crafts specialist. Sofia grabbed some of Mindy's leftover fabric and created her first bracelet. Under Mindy's tutelage, Sofia and Hanna joined Stacey, and in October 2015, their non profit bracelet business began, with a goal to donate proceeds to a different charity each month.
Sofia, Hanna and Stacey have donated to and/or worked events with organizations including Phoenix Center for Autistic Children, Mazon, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, CCFA, Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Relay for Life, and Focus For Our Future, to name a few. Additionally, every October, the three girls also participate in the "Not My Daughter" Luncheon to spread breast cancer awareness and support finding a cure for the disease. This year, they donated over $4,000 to the cause.
Before February 14, the girls could not imagine that they would be making bracelets and donating proceeds to a movement within their very own community.
"It was obvious to the three of us that we needed to do something," says Sofia. Hanna adds, "we helped the best way we know how - to make bracelets and support the affected families."
Two days after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the 3 Heart Strings website featured an MSD bracelet, and within hours, it was shared widely on social media.
"People we didn't even know were sharing the bracelet on Facebook," says Stacey. "We were getting hundreds of orders at a time." Hanna adds that she was "totally in shock."
In order to handle the abundance of orders, the girls scouted groups of friends to help them in four-hour shifts, to fill orders, make bracelets and label envelopes. "The mailmen know us all by name," says Sofia. They hosted a bracelet making event at the Cypress Head clubhouse, ordered in pizzas and were greeted by Channel 4 News to cover their story. Sofia states that they received many local offers to help, including the Parkland Moms Club, Girl Scouts and Marjory Stoneman Douglas teachers.
Orders from as far as Russia, Australia, Switzerland, England, and Brazil filled their inboxes.
"When people see the bracelets, they see MSD and know what the letters stand for. If they don't know, they will ask, and this creates a chain of support," explains Hanna. "Everyone feels connected," says Sofia.
Recently, some victims' family members have reached out for Sofia, Hanna and Stacey to create personalized bracelets for them. They have partnered with "Orange Ribbons for Jaime," a 501(C)(3) foundation started by Jaime's parents, Fred and Jennifer Guttenberg, that advocates for school safety and speaks out about changing laws to prevent gun violence. An orange bracelet with a heart symbol that sits in between the letters "J" and "G," is being sold on the website.
3 Heart Strings has expanded their inventory to t-shirts, hats and car magnets to continually support Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims and their families. To date, the girls have raised an astounding $130,000 in sales. That's 26,000 bracelets.
Sofia, Hanna and Stacey have recently met with many affected MSD families, where they got a chance to meet in a private setting and offer them handmade baskets with bracelets, warm blankets, love and support.
"We hope that our bracelets tie the community together and help to heal people in a way that words cannot," says Hanna.
For more information on 3 Heart Strings or to purchase from their website, visit https://3heartstrings.com.