Originally published on AY Magazine - October 28, 2022
There is a common, unattributed quote that says, “If you can be anything, be kind,” and this is the exact phrase that Olivia Sullivan, a 10th grade student from Garfield, lives by.
Sullivan, who has a story that is unique compared to other kids her age, set out to start her own business, Crafty Paws, that allows her to give back to causes that mean the world to her.
“My grandmother taught me how to crochet around nine, but I really started learning when I was 13, and afterward I got this idea to start a business,” Sullivan said. “I started Crafty Paws in 2020, crocheting scarfs, gloves and hats because it was winter and I wanted to find a way to support an animal rescue in China (Suzhou Animals Lovers) along with the orphanage that I was adopted from, which is also located in China,” Sullivan said, explaining that she has been crocheting for a long time, making everything from stuffed animals to doilies and key chains.
Sullivan also added another cause to give back to this summer.
“I started giving back to this program, the Mobility Lab, at Grand Valley State University, because I was paired up with the mobility lab. The mobility lab helps kids who struggle with issues such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy and other birth defects that can make it difficult for them to walk,” Sullivan said, noting that 100% of the profits go toward benefiting the three causes.
In partnership with the Grand Valley University Mobility Lab, Sullivan supplies crocheted baby rattles, noise makers and mobility devices.
Sullivan explained that she was found on a train when she was around a month old, which ultimately resulted in her placement in the orphanage. It was there that they discovered she was having issues with her heart. At three years old, Sullivan was adopted by her parents, who resided in the United States.
“Olivia had mobility issues as well. When we found her, she was non-verbal, couldn’t sit up and was paralyzed on the left side. We set out to find out how to help her and she persisted,” Dana, Sullivan’s mother said.
Sullivan suffers from multiple physical ailments, including a rare genetic eye condition, being deaf and struggling with mobility issues. Through all of her own struggles, Sullivan has stayed committed to helping other children in need, while maintaining all A’s in school, learning four different languages, coding and creating kindness.
“Through all of her struggles – 15 surgeries and multiple doctors appointments – she has maintained being kind, caring and giving. She’s so smart, she learned how to code, can learn everything under the sun, she’s kind and driven and is truly the most inspiring person I know,” Madison Terrell of K12 Private Academy, where Sullivan attends, said.
K12 Private Academy has allowed Sullivan to learn seamlessly, and be successful both inside and outside of the classroom. Sullivan has lost almost all of her vision, and mainly reads lips to understand speech, and due to these issues could not attend a brick-and-mortar school. The flexibility of K12 Private Academy has given her the freedom to keep up with her school schedule and run her own business.
In 2020, Sullivan was able to donate $6,000. In 2021, Sullivan raised $10,000 and is waiting to see how much she has raised this year. Sullivan, who has a natural talent for crocheting, explained that while she had known how to for a long time, she didn’t really start until she was 13.
According to Terrell, Sullivan hopes to one day turn her business into a full-time job and to continue to help people.
To shop Sullivan’s crochet collections, click here.
To learn more about K12 Private Academy, visit https://www.k12.com/private-academy.html.
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