It was a fortuitous, fateful introduction. The kind of moment where you can trace things back in time and see how every decision you made along the way lead you to this perfect, precise place. The sort of moment that reaffirms that things really do happen for a reason. That’s how my mom and I felt when we shook hands with Opportunity.
Years before, my mom and I had spoken about starting a foundation. We were sitting outside in Colorado by a fire, when someone started playing Blackbird by the Beatles on the guitar. (Yes, it was a rather picturesque movie moment.) Instantly we knew that we would call it the Blackbird Foundation. Take what’s broken and help it fly. Empower. Restore worth. Reaffirm dignity.
My mom and I are both fighters in our own way. Mom, who I lovingly call Mama Bear and Gladys, grew up in rural Tennessee without much more than the clothes on her back and an ever-changing roof over her head. You would never know it looking at her. She never complains. She never gripes about her past. Instead, she has taken her intimate knowledge of having little, and has channeled it into immeasurable gratitude for her life now. Her favorite way to express this gratitude is through true sharing—giving.
My story is different. I’ve never known a life with material want. My parents always did everything they could to ensure that my life would be spared the pain of theirs. They succeeded. The only problem is that pain is an integral part of the human experience, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t protect someone from life. Life knocked when I was 15—I was assaulted, an experience that sent a seismic shock not just through my life, but through my family as a whole.
Now back to Blackbird. Taking the combined experiences of my mom’s life and my own, we decided that we wanted to create a scholarship program for survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse. We always said that “surviving” wasn’t enough and viewed education as one means to break the cycle. So we filed what felt like 10 million IRS papers, selected board members, and had our first board meeting. Finally, Blackbird was happening! And then after two more meetings, we realized we were slightly in over our heads. And by slightly, I mean seriously.
Giving is a lot harder than most people give it credit. It isn’t about putting on a superhero cape and saving the world. It isn’t about recognition and accolades. In truth, giving has a lot more to do with humility than heroism. Giving requires knowing our strengths, and then joining these strengths with others to truly maximize our impact. And this is where Opportunity International comes in—
Opportunity International is a quiet powerhouse of transformation. They are as passionate as they are strategic as they are devoted. My mom and I feel we share the same heart of Opportunity. We are all driven by the restoration of worth—transformation—and above all else, we know that the only way we can uplift humanity as a whole is if we start giving people the tools to do more than simply survive.
The truth is that people don’t fix people. We fix ourselves and make ourselves whole. That’s why my mom and I joined hands with Opportunity the moment we shook their hand. They get it. We know that by partnering with Opportunity, we stand in solidarity with millions around the globe, and can help in a way we never dreamed possible…
And continue on our own journey of restoration.
Natalie Hornsby is the former Spokesperson and Vice President of Marketing for Cepia LLC, the tiny toy titan behind Zhu Zhu Pets. Natalie’s success in brand management and crisis management led to various industry accolades for Cepia including: 2010 SABRE Award for Brand Reputation Management, 2010 American Business Award for Crisis Management PR2010 Toy Industry Association Toy of the Year, Most Innovative Toy, and Best Girls Toy. Nominated as a ‘Woman to Watch’ in the toy industry, and voted ’30 under 30’ by the St. Louis Business Journal, Natalie was invited to keynote at various industry and non-profit events, where she fell madly in love with helping others through the spoken word. Natalie now speaks to audiences about transforming insecurity and hardship into true power. She has been called everything from a Hallmark hugging hippie to an inspirational leader and great visionary. She hugs (a lot), is intensely optimistic, and will work tirelessly to help you discover how important you really are. Even if you don’t ask. (Sorry.)