If you have been following my blog (or know me in real life), you will know that I am a huge supporter of 3E Love
. I wear the wheelchair heart symbol proudly and have shared it with so many others (see HERE
3E Love's Wheelchair Heart is a symbol of acceptance, love, and
strength. It embraces differences, it educates the unaware, and it
empowers and unifies people of all abilities. The symbol represents real
people and real life instead of perceptions and stereotypes. 3E Love is
about loving and living life to the fullest no matter what you can or
On January 20th, I will be wearing my wheelchair heart proudly to acknowledge the International Day of Acceptance.
International Day of Acceptance is a day dedicated to social acceptance of disability and to honor the late Annie Hopkins, founder of 3E Love and creator of the International Symbol of Acceptance.
Who is Annie? What is January 20th, International Day of Acceptance, and how did it start?
Annie Hopkins was amazing. She didn’t want you to think she was… but she was.
Annie was born into a world that tried to limit who she could be and
what she could do. She grew up seeing her peers and role models with
disabilities face discrimination daily, sometimes on purpose, and
sometimes indirectly. Annie lived in a society where people with
disabilities were not portrayed in the media as beautiful, able, or
equal members of a community. She entered her teens knowing that she
wasn’t expected to pursue a higher education or to live independently.
She lived life knowing that strangers thought more about her disability
and presumed life expectancy than they thought to say hello as she
Annie didn’t care. In fact, she was calculatedly reckless in how she
chose to live, always pushing the boundaries of what people thought she
could do and using her experiences to educate others. In high school
when the choir instructor told her that she probably wouldn’t make the
cut, she won every talent show, year after year. In college, she wanted
to join a sorority, so she forced more than 40 houses on campus to build
ramps so she could participate in rush week. After college, she moved
out on her own and created humorous yet educational YouTube
videos to show people how she faced her challenges. She never hesitated
to test her limits, especially when it came to giving to others… Annie
was everything a person hopes to be as a family, friend and community
member. She was generous, courageous, and empathetic and she lived how
people all wish to live. Annie embodied the very best spirit that
humankind has to offer one another, and the world.
Annie Hopkins was an advocate, entrepreneur, artist, and student, who
demonstrated what is possible when you love life. In 2007, she
recruited her brother Stevie to help her start a company to spread her
message. She created 3E Love
with the idea that her “Wheelchair Heart” symbol unified people of all
abilities and it ignited conversations every day that would help change
attitudes for the better. Her ideas didn’t stop there: she wanted to
create a disability owned and disability operated social entrepreneurial
endeavor that one day, would be successful, would further empowerment
and would demonstrate what can be achieved with a positive love for life
and changing perceptions.
Social acceptance is the key… not the pity and ignorance with which
she grew up. Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower each
other. Love life!
Unfortunately, on January 20th, 2009, the survival of Annie’s message
was threatened when she passed away from unexpected complications to a
simple medical procedure. Overwhelming support from friends, family, and
the disability community helped keep her ideals alive. Stevie Hopkins,
her brother who helped her start 3E Love, took the reins and never
International Day of Acceptance began in the beginning of 2010.
Stevie and his family were not looking forward to the Chicago winter,
the snow, and everything else that would remind them of losing Annie. 3E
Love and Annie’s message had become Stevie’s primary source of strength
and hope during the first year after Annie’s passing, and so he had the
idea to change January 20th from a day that represents sadness and loss
to a day that represents Annie’s message of empowerment and loving
life. If people all over the world would embrace their challenges and
accept others no matter their ability, Annie’s message and lifestyle
would be alive forever. People on the internet from all over the world
responded positively and got everyone they knew involved. Even if they
did not own one of our t-shirts to wear, or could not afford temporary
tattoos or stickers, they drew the symbol on their hand, made homemade
posters, posted about it on social networks, and did everything they
could to show the world that they were a part of this acceptance
movement. January 20th would now and forevermore be an International
celebration to celebrate Annie’s life, her ideas, and the 3E Love
movement instead of mourning her loss.
Since then, 3E Love and the Wheelchair Heart has become an
international brand and symbol of love, strength, and hope. Over 50,000
people worldwide own at least one item of 3E Love merchandise. 3E Love’s
Wheelchair Heart is in every state and 33 countries! Everyone who
“wears their heart on their sleeve” does so for different reasons, but
they’re all unified by one symbol, no matter their ability.
So on January 20th, join us in celebration of social acceptance. Get involved by “wearing your heart on your sleeve”!
Tell the world you embrace who you are; a person with social rights,
who has an opinion, who has interests, who has goals and who loves life.
You are a person who is empowered to make a difference in the world and
will not be without a voice in society. You are not living disabled,
you are living.
Tell the world that you are accepting of people with disabilities. As our parents, siblings, relatives, spouses, children, lovers, coworkers,
teachers, personal assistants, friends, and anyone else – you also have
a role in our culture and life. You can start change by demonstrating
acceptance and showing the world that you embrace people of all
Start the conversation of acceptance today!
Thank you for your love and support these past 6 years! Annie’s dream is alive and the 3E Love
movement is stronger than ever.