Model Spotlight on Franny

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The models we work with here at Matilda Jane are all beautiful, spirited, unique little girls. It’s easy to see their sparkling personalities shine through in the final photos. Recently, we met a model with such an inspiring story – and an incredible attitude – that we just had to share her story with you.

Franny is a 6-year-old from Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. She came to the United States because she was in dire need of medical care that wasn’t available in her home country. Rebecca Ghent and her family, from Fort Wayne, IN, hosted Franny when she first arrived.

Franny Singing

When Franny came to the United States, she was 3 years old, weighed only SEVENTEEN pounds, and didn’t speak a word of English. She was quiet and scared but very brave. Her first surgery was in December of 2011. It took 8 hours, a full 6 hours longer than anticipated, but she was released from the hospital two days later. Eleven days after the surgery, the doctors discovered that Franny had contracted post-op meningitis. She was incredibly sick, lost vitals, and was transported from Fort Wayne to the University of Michigan by ambulance during the middle of a heavy snowstorm.

In total, she lost vitals three times and was touch-and-go for the entire trip. But she persevered and was stabilized for surgery. A successful surgery and seven blood transfusions later, she woke up. She told her shocked host mother in very clear English that her name was Franny and that Jesus was in her heart. Franny was diagnosed with multiple neurological disorders, sustained traumatic brain injury and loss, MRSA infection of the cerebral spinal fluid and meningitis. The doctors told her host family that they had little to no neurological expectations for her. She returned to Africa in November 2012 after a full recovery, but her health rapidly declined again.

The organization that brought Franny to the US the first time was unable to bring her back for a second time. So Franny’s American host family, the Ghent’s, founded Ray of Hope Medical Missions to raise the funds needed to get Franny the help she needed. Ray of Hope has grown into a non-profit organization that facilitates and secures medical visas and passports, free transportation, and life-saving care and medical procedures for medically deprived children from underdeveloped nations. Ray of Hope provides select children (14 total since its inception) with all the necessities required to get medical care in the United States. Once healthy, the children return to their families.

Franny came back to the United States for a second time. When she arrived, she was diagnosed with plasmodium falciparum malaria, the least common and most deadly form of malaria – especially dangerous for an already neurologically compromised child. Her prognosis was grim, but once again, she made a full recovery. Franny continues to surprise her host family daily with all of her achievements.

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She has a long road ahead of her. The specialists expect for her to have at least 3 additional emergency surgeries before she turns 18. Since Franny’s home country doesn’t have the medical resources necessary to maintain her condition, she is unable to return to Africa. The Ghent’s have become her full-time adoptive family. Franny stays in touch with her “African Momma” via Skype, and hopes that one day when she is older and healthier, she will be able to go back to Africa – even if just to visit.

Despite all of her struggles, Franny has grown into an incredibly happy, kind and energetic young girl. She brought a smile to everyone’s faces at the shoot. From telling stories to leading the crew in a sing-a-long, Franny is one really special little girl.

Click here to read more about Ray of Hope Medical Missions.

     

To A New Chapter – Secret Fields, Fall 2014

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Secret Fields is a collection filled with meaning and beauty. It’s the golden fields where your imagination can run free, and it’s the trinkets you keep – even when you can’t remember why. It’s a celebration of life and love and friendship, and I’m so excited to share it with you.

When Denise was diagnosed with cancer last year, my whole floral, polka dotted, striped world came crashing to a halt. I didn’t just think, “How will I ever design without her?” but also, “How will I possibly go on without her?” I know I wasn’t alone with these fears. Denise is one much-loved woman!

Letters, phone calls, texts and prayers flooded in from her closest family members as well as customers and friends around the world. Denise wasn’t alone in this journey, and neither was I. Thanks to Kayla, Matt K, Lauren, Kiara, Jeff, and so many other wonderful people, I had the support and love I needed to start my very first MJC collection…on my own. (But like I said, never alone.)

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I started designing the same way I always do – with color. I walked through the rows of beautiful, seemingly endless bolts of fabric in our Platinum office and cut swatches like a mad man. I tried to embrace Denise’s fabric favorites, both old and new, to evoke her unbelievable style and eye for color. Next, I chose Pantone colors based on these lovely patterns and began designing fabrics.

After months and months of development, Secret Fields was born. From my original conception to when Denise came back to work from treatment in November, I watched this small collection bloom before my very eyes. Where I had envisioned purple, Denise introduced coral. We combined our ditty flowers, plaids, and toiles into a fabulous fabric fanfare! To put it simply…magic was happening. Magic I had been waiting for. The last boost of confidence, surge of energy, and attention to detail that this collection needed. (And the boost of confidence I needed, too.)

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Why Secret Fields, you ask? To me, it’s a way of describing the light at the end of a tunnel. The beautiful hidden things that can be found in times of such deep darkness. Like a mason jar filled with fireflies, it glows and makes you feel safe. Like an inner strength you never knew you had.

Gosh, Denise wasn’t alone last year. And neither was I. How lucky are we? Not only to have each other, but to have all of you. To share so much beauty and truth with you every day is a gift beyond measure, but to share Secret Fields with you is like sharing a page from my diary – an ongoing story of growth, change, and love for all things MJC.

Cheers to a new season!

Love,
Sam

     
Julie G - July 7, 2014 - 8:39 pm

LOVE IT!! Can’t wait!

Lisa Kelly - July 7, 2014 - 8:55 pm

Truly amazing , inspirational & a blessing to all !

Xoxo Kelly’s

Jen Williams - July 7, 2014 - 8:58 pm

So precious Sam! Proud of you! These little sneaks look beautiful :)

Michelle Gresham - July 7, 2014 - 9:08 pm

Beautifully said, Sam! You MJC girls have sure gone through a lot but always seem to know how turn lemons into lemonade. :D I can’t wait to see your fall collection. June marks a year since I found you guys; I am excited for what the future holds for MJC! <3

Lisa Kelly - July 7, 2014 - 9:12 pm

Blessing inspirational

Candice - July 7, 2014 - 9:13 pm

I love the symbolism of Secret Fields and admire the strength and courage both you and Denise generated in the midst of such upheaval and uncertainty. Just amazing… And…I love the sneaks and I look forward to all the releases! <3

Rochelle - July 7, 2014 - 9:24 pm

So wonderful!! Can’t wait to see it

Stephanie MC - July 7, 2014 - 9:25 pm

The sneaks look gorgeous! I can’t wait to see the entire line.

Kiley - July 7, 2014 - 9:29 pm

Can. Not. Wait. Great story and so inspiring!!! Love love love MJC!!

Missy - July 7, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Beautiful post! Can’t wait to see more!

Nicole S. - July 7, 2014 - 9:38 pm

It wasn’t until I bought my first MJ piece that I really got what it was all about. The texture and color combinations, the buttons, the details. I was awed. One year in and our closet is filled with beautiful clothing. Excited for the new line and everything it stands for.

Ava Castleberry - July 7, 2014 - 9:39 pm

So exciting Sam! Beautifully said and beautifully named! Can’t wait until we see it all next week! :)

Stephanie Casto - July 7, 2014 - 9:42 pm

Never stop believing Sam:) you’ve got this nailed:) love everything:)

Jennifer Shultz - July 7, 2014 - 9:45 pm

What a beautiful post, thanks for opening your heart and letting us hear a bit of your journey :)

Stacie Petta - July 7, 2014 - 10:03 pm

I love it so far! And I loved ready your way of thinking and designing! It’s always fun to learn about behind the scenes!

Kait G - July 7, 2014 - 10:04 pm

Simply amazing! Love your passion, and your eye for design. Thank you so much for sharing, can’t wait to see you and the line in a few weeks at conf. <3

Abby - July 7, 2014 - 10:09 pm

Can’t wait to journey into the secret fields :)

Ramilda V - July 7, 2014 - 10:21 pm

Eeekk!! I can’t wait ♡ the sneak has me wanting more!!

Rya - July 7, 2014 - 10:26 pm

Oh ladies, you’ve outdone yourselves. Please oh please tell me these amazing pieces go bigger than sz 8. Our young girls who are tall really want to wear these styles!!!

Brooke Malko - July 7, 2014 - 10:30 pm

LOVE it! the colors are just stunning! That Sara top with the ruffle and the birds – all those little details are what make MJ so special! Can’t wait to see it all!! Thanks for all the hard work ladies!

~Brooke

Samantha Guenther - July 7, 2014 - 10:32 pm

What a beautiful story behind the inspiration for this line. I love the name it reminds me of a magical secretive place to hide out and just be free. Beautiful name.

Gina - July 7, 2014 - 10:36 pm

Sam,
Everything looks amazing! Absolutely beautiful! The colours, the prints.. I am so excited!!
You got this
xo

C Ryan - July 7, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Looks lovely!

Maryann E. - July 7, 2014 - 10:51 pm

So excited to see what this new collection holds! Congrats on the beginning of new adventures!!

Monica Skrove - July 7, 2014 - 11:12 pm

Amazing! Can’t wait to see my sweet daughter in your vision. Blessings!

Amy - NC - July 7, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Sam- just wanted to say first off congrats and second well done, can’t wait to see more. I also just stepped into a head design / creative role (in home furnishings) and understand the excitement and trepidation of the first collection of a new chapter. You were put in this position for a reason…girl’s got talent ;) can’t wait to see what the future holds for both you and MJC!

Gem - July 7, 2014 - 11:16 pm

Beautifully said. ❤️ Can’t wait for the new collection! The sneaks have already gotten me and my daughter so excited! :)

Amanda Moore - July 7, 2014 - 11:24 pm

So amazing…it’s been a difficult year for me as well and I had surgery last week to fix it all. At the hospital I had my bright hobo bag and made sure it sat out. The colors and fun fabric lift spirits so much having pretty items gave us something to smile about after surgery. This new line appears to be just as amazing. Can’t wait to spread some colorful cheer to patients in post op once I’m better again. Helped feel like everything was gonna be fine and even if it wasnt it would be pretty.

Melissa P. - July 7, 2014 - 11:25 pm

So cute! Love the color combination!

Laura Shigley - July 7, 2014 - 11:59 pm

Beautifully written! I feel like this whole collection and the meaning behind it will forever be with me because I have had these same feelings. MJC is truly a family <3

Beth Kregar - July 8, 2014 - 12:07 am

Love it so far! Can’t wait to see the rest!! (can I just go ahead and order that top in the last pic?!)

Tiffany - July 8, 2014 - 9:16 am

Just beautiful! I can’t wait for the collection!!

Marcy Schneider Hoffman - July 8, 2014 - 10:22 am

Beautiful words, beautiful collection, beautiful women! Can’t wait to see more!

portia - July 8, 2014 - 11:57 am

CUTE CUTE CUTE!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait to see it alL!

Amy - July 8, 2014 - 1:10 pm

beautiful!!!

Jennifer L - July 8, 2014 - 2:16 pm

What a special and personal way to share the strength, hope, and determination so many of you at MJC have endured during difficult circumstances. I love how you described this new collection like a page out of your diary….so inspirational. Thank you!!

The Greatest Gift

I may have read this quote a hundred and one times.  It speaks to me in a way that I really needed to hear these past few months.

“Never be afraid to fall apart because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself the way you wished you had been all along.” – Rae Smith

Matilda Jane started because a former boss said “you’ll never be a blip on the radar.”  Matilda Jane grew because you welcomed us into your hearts and homes.

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Matilda Jane was never something I dreamed about doing.  I’ve always had the dream, and hoped, that I could be some part of a change for the greater good.  Matilda Jane was the vehicle I used to make that dream happen.

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And in light of all the changes that have taken place over the past couple of years I think it’s time to tackle my dream with 100% of me.  I’m ready to make a change.

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My heart and mind have been battling a lot these days – I decided I’m just gonna take the risk.  After all, I have always said, “the greatest risk of all is not taking one.”  I have decided to step down as the lead designer of Matilda Jane. I will still be keeping my seat on the Board as well as my shares in the company.  I look forward to continue being involved in helping steer Matilda Jane in the direction we have set in motion. It’s too great not to be part of!!!  But most of all I will be keeping true to my dream of making a change.  I will be taking a little time off and then I will be jumping full steam ahead into The Mighty Acorn Foundation to see what good we can bring to the world.

 xena

I have so many emotions and words to share but I’ll keep it simple and say: Without your support, love and kindness I would be lost wandering in search of a purpose.  Thank you wholeheartedly for being such a huge part of my life and welcoming me into yours.

- Denise

P.S.

I am confident in Sam McDonald and Madeline Katzel to carry out the legacy of the Matilda Jane “look.”  As you know, Sam is a born and bred MJC girl.  She is practically my clone or as close as one could get.  When I met Madeline this winter and through the few short months we have worked together I can tell she is the right one.  I’ve got a feeling she is going to knock your socks off.  Madeline is a seasoned designer with the perfect look for Matilda Jane.  I am more than confident she will be perfect to lead the design team going forward.  I am excited for you to welcome them as you welcomed me.  But more so, I am excited to watch them make Matilda Jane even more beautiful than it already is.

     
Bridgette Lott - July 1, 2014 - 7:10 pm

:(

Lindsey p - July 1, 2014 - 7:13 pm

Best wishes for your future endeavors

Kelli Castleberry - July 1, 2014 - 7:20 pm

First, please let me say how much I enjoyed meeting you this weekend when I was in Ft. Wayne with the group of MJ Addicts ladies. I made memories and friends that will last a lifetime, and it was all because of Matilda Jane. Sam and Kayla were amazing and were top notch representatives of your company. If you are feeling led to step down as lead designer of Matilda Jane, I can’t think of a better direction to turn than toward The Mighty Acorn Foundation. Sam and Madeline have some pretty big shoes to fill, and, even though I’ve not met Madeline, I know they’re up for the challenge! I can’t wait to see the pieces they turn out! Best of luck in your endeavors and I hope to see you again next summer at Art Fair 2015!

amy S - July 1, 2014 - 7:23 pm

Wow! So so sad for MJC but happy for your Denise!!

Katie R. - July 1, 2014 - 7:30 pm

Blessings to you, Denise, for following your heart. I am sure you will continue to do great things.

Ashley - July 1, 2014 - 7:32 pm

Wow! Congrats and beat if luck on your next chapter!

Laurie - July 1, 2014 - 7:33 pm

All I can say is thank you. Thank you for creating this wonderful brand and community that brings so many mommas together. A place to shop but so much more. A place that understands and celebrates the awesome responsibility of being a mom and keeps our little princesses in clothes with personality that still embraces their childhood. Your legacy will continue with your awesome team..what a testament to you that they have grown alongside you…nothing but love and good wishes!!

Ashley - July 1, 2014 - 7:33 pm

Wow! Congrats and best of luck on your next chapter!

Amber - July 1, 2014 - 7:37 pm

This sounds crazy but I feel like this is a break up. I’m sad but wish you all the luck!! I’ve been buying Matilda Jane for 5 years and hope I can continue. Best wishes on your next journey!

Lindsey L - July 1, 2014 - 7:53 pm

You’ve been a treasured gem at Matilda Jane and I’m so happy for you that you are passionately pursuing your dreams of helping other people! You are a rare gem!!

Melissa Pomeranz - July 1, 2014 - 8:36 pm

Wishing you the best on your new endeavors, and congratulations on taking the plunge! Ben and Julian proudly sported their MA fundraiser tees throughout Orlando, Disney, Universal, and Lido Beach, Sarasota these past two weeks (next to Eva’s daily ‘Tildys, and my indispensable ruffles, tanks and Beachy Keen) and we were stopped several times in each locale asking about the logo and verse on the tees. We are proud to support your foundation, and know you’ll continue doing great things! We love you!

Abby - July 1, 2014 - 8:42 pm

Bittersweet news for sure, but I wish you all the best, Denise! I know that you will be successful in whatever you choose and that you will, indeed, make a difference! You already have inspired so many! Best wishes and enjoy!

Amy Ijames - July 1, 2014 - 8:45 pm

“Go Confidently in the direction of your dreams” Live the life you have imagined. ”

I cannot tell you the love, and goodness I have felt since coming across your line of clothing several years ago. I have “meet” so many amazing people, who have touched my life in so many ways! I cannot wait to see who else’s life you will change, and cannot wait to see what mind blowing things Sam can create! There will never be another Denise!

Thank you so much for allowing us into your family over the years!!

Amy - July 1, 2014 - 9:10 pm

You’ll be missed :(

Stephanie Reid - July 1, 2014 - 10:22 pm

Denise- your talent has brought so much beauty to the world and has been the foundation for so much love and charity. You have created a strong community of whole-hearted and free-spirited supporters. The ripple effect of your life’s work is unending and will be cherished for generations to come. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Your company and it’s creations continues to inspire me! <3

Bethy - July 1, 2014 - 10:26 pm

Oh you will be missed more than you will ever know. You have brought strangers, families and mothers/daughters together in an almost unimaginable way. Thank you for lending us a part of you. I’m so glad that I purchased one of the MA auction dresses this past year and I (we) will treasure it for many years to come. I look forward to continuing to support MJC and MA in future endeavors!!

Stacie Petta - July 1, 2014 - 10:32 pm

I’m sure this was not an easy decision for you! You’ll be missed! Sam, like you said, will do awesome!!!! Good luck and blessings on your next chapter!

Courtney Puhl - July 1, 2014 - 10:42 pm

Congratulations Denise! You are so right to follow your heart! Best of everything to you! Xoxo

Jennifer - July 1, 2014 - 10:56 pm

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this wonderful company that you created. My little girls look like they are suppose to…little girls, because of your beautiful clothing. I wish you the best in your new adventures! You will be missed, but always remembered whenever I see that little brown label.

P.S. I sure hope that former boss knows just how wrong they were!

Dana - July 1, 2014 - 10:56 pm

You have to leap… I wish you the best and love all you have created and promoted through MJC. That was a wonderful leap then and I am sure this leap will bring amazing goosebumps and a full heart! Much luck to you and your new chapter

Christy Hruska - July 1, 2014 - 11:00 pm

What a beautiful quote! Mighty Acorn will grow leaps & bounds with your focus and commitment. A hard decision, I’m sure, but a good one. Thanks for taking the time to share. I love reading the blog and getting updated on MJC, and all the good things you all are doing. I’m always proud to dress my girl in Matilda Jane because of your ongoing efforts to make positive change. Congratulations on such a big change & best of luck in everything!

Kolbi - July 1, 2014 - 11:01 pm

We are so blessed to be a small part of this Matilda Jane community, and I am forever grateful to you & your team for providing a little sunshine in our lives! You have given my little girl extra bounce in her step, more twirls in her dance & extra smiles on her face! I am so thankful that I found this company. When I look back on memories of these fleeting days, I will be proud to say that Matilda Jane filled our hearts with happiness and helped preserved my little girl’s childhood! Best wishes to you and your family as you start this new chapter in your life! :)

Holly volpe - July 1, 2014 - 11:36 pm

Thank you for sharing your wonderful gift with us! I don’t think you know the influence and beauty you have brought to so many.
Your heart is your best leader… Follow it wherever it takes you <3

Beverly Turner - July 2, 2014 - 12:04 am

Thank you! Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Lillie - July 2, 2014 - 1:11 am

:( I can’t say I’m not sad to read this, my heart aches. We all love you Denise and yet, totally understand that you want to spend more time w/ the boys & the next chapter of our life. Sam .. Already love ya girlie…

susie - July 2, 2014 - 2:26 am

Denise…it’s so hard to find the right words to type what’s in my heart. In the past 7 years…the beauty of Matilda Jane Clothing has touched every birthday, every Christmas, every vacation, and so many school days, in my family’s life. I feel so blessed! The sweetness and detail of every button and tiny piece of ribbon and lace, has “Denise” written all over it. I know you’ll never stray too far from that design table, but life is opening new doors for you and your family and I’m so happy for you!!

carissa donarummo - July 2, 2014 - 8:14 am

Thank you for your endless hard work….your love and compassion shines in every outfit. I wish you luck on your Mighty Acorn purpose, and thank you for being part of something that is so wonderful-and creating so much more than “just clothes”….Good luck!!! xoxo

Jennifer Vess - July 2, 2014 - 8:48 am

Congrats on taking the leap of faith and diving head first into another adventure. I wish I had as much courage in my whole body as you have in your pinky!

Coree York - July 2, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Congratulations! What an amazing adventure ahead! May God be Glorified through your work!

Sara Courtney - July 2, 2014 - 3:29 pm

Funny you posted a quote that has been speaking to you. Over the past few months I haven’t been able to get Mahatma Gandhi out of my head. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Truly, that is what you are doing. Thank you for being not only a shining example, but such an encourager. (and i have no doubt-sam and madeline are going to rock it)

Maria Bellot - July 2, 2014 - 9:13 pm

Your company has done so much good. Because of you, I have made countless lifelong friendships & am so grateful. The difference you have made in so many young children’s lives in Africa can never be measured. You are so very truly amazing.

Heather Yellina - July 2, 2014 - 10:00 pm

This is beautiful Denise and let me just say GOOD FOR YOU!!!! You are a beautiful light in this world, so go ahead girl….go get your shine on!!! XOXO

Susie Mc. - July 3, 2014 - 7:56 am

I love how brave you are. You’ve built a great company, looking forward to see what you do with another one.

Angie B - July 3, 2014 - 8:33 am

You have such success in all you do, I(you have the Midas touch) I know it will follow whereever you choose to go. You are an inspiration to all mothers. One person can make a difference. Thank you for reminding me that one person can make a difference. Best wishes on you latest adventure.

natalie - July 3, 2014 - 10:05 am

What an amazing role model! I am humbled by the example you are setting and truly honoured by the tiny part I play by purchasing MJC.

Thank you for creating change. For showing us that one person can make the world a better place.

Thank you Denise for being in this world.

Michelle Gresham - July 3, 2014 - 5:13 pm

This makes me so sad!!! I know that it is selfish of me, but I don’t want you to go! :*( It is great that you want to make a change in the world, but selfishly, I am going to miss you Denise! It’s not just clothes!

christy dodd - July 3, 2014 - 10:56 pm

Congratulations for the brave choice you have made, Sam’s got this! You go take on the foundation with tires blazing, the mighty acorns are blessed.

Becky - July 3, 2014 - 11:54 pm

“Hem your blessings with thankfulness so they don’t unravel” Denise, you have definitely been a blessing to me and my family with your Share the Love program and your beautiful clothes. I know that you will continue to be a blessing wherever your heart leads you. Thank you for letting me be a part of Matilda Jane.

Ele - July 4, 2014 - 9:56 am

Good Luck Denise,
You are an inspiration, I wish all the best.

A b o u t   U s