“It makes me so happy to help others,” said Newport Beach resident Lauren O’Neill, 17.
“We’re all at home due to the quarantine, and I want to inspire other teens to reach out and help people too. Since a very young age, I’ve felt God called me to help others. I’ve always been super passionate about doing so.”
Lauren has found a unique way to do so by raising funds for those impacted by the pandemic. She recently launched Hooves and Hope, a non-profit necklace brand combining her love of fashion and design with her passion about horses.
“I want to help those who can no longer afford to eat due to the economic impact of the pandemic,” Lauren said. “I donate 100 percent of all sales proceeds to Feeding America. Like many, I have been horrified by the rapid spread and death toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I am equally saddened by the economic devastation it has caused to the many who have lost their jobs, businesses, and livelihoods. This pandemic tests our resolve as a country, but I believe in our community’s ability to band together to support each other and its most vulnerable members.”
Lauren, a high school junior at the Waldorf School of Orange County, rides horses most every day at a stable in San Juan Capistrano.
“My love and connection to horses began at the age of five when I began riding,” she said. “From the day I first rode a horse there was an instant passion that is indescribable. I have been competing for the last ten years. For me, riding has taught me an immense amount of life lessons that I will take with me throughout my life.”
Riding horses has not been without challenges for Lauren and her family.
“When I was ten, I was at the barn with my horse trainer, and we were walking horses around,” she said. “I was behind her and her horse was a new one we didn’t know. My horse put its head close to the new one, it kicked me in the face and I flew back ten feet. My body went into shock. The last thing I remembered was going to the barn, and the next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital.”
“I was sedated for a week,” Lauren continued. “My parents were told I might never be the same again. They didn’t know what to expect. One of the first things I did when I woke up was to ask if I was going to my riding lesson tomorrow. I don’t remember it at all. I was so lucky, there were so many blessings. All the horses have metal shoes with screws on their feet. That particular horse was new and was going to get shoes that day. So, all of that happened without a shoe on its foot. I can’t imagine what would have happened if it had metal shoes on. I think God protected me, and so many people prayed for me.”
Lauren suffered a bad concussion. Her left arm and left side of her face were badly injured and bruised.
“It was definitely life changing and made me appreciate everything I have,” Lauren said. “You never know how special your life is until a crazy thing happens like that. It could have been so much worse. I’m forever grateful for that because it made me so thankful for all I have.”
That experience strengthened Lauren’s desire to help others, and the pandemic propelled her to action. Lauren’s idea for creating a nonprofit to help feed others first began her sophomore year when she read an article about how many people go without food every day.
“I read that 60 million meals go missed in Orange County alone,” she said. “That made me want to help feed those who were going hungry. Then, in the wake of virus, I thought it would be the perfect time to launch the nonprofit and hopefully emphasize the need to help others. I chose Feeding America because they have access to a wide network across the nation with many resources to others, especially in underserved communities. In the wake of this global pandemic, Feeding America has donated over 11 million dollars in grant funding to those who are in despair. There has been exponential demand for food and supplies at local food banks and soup kitchens due to the virus.”
Lauren launched Hooves and Hope at the beginning of April. She said the wanted her logo to use the word hope “because people need hope for security and for a better future, and if you’re worrying about food, it’s hard to have hope. I also wanted a horseshoe because of my passion for horses.”
Lauren sells two different sizes of necklaces, both featuring a horseshoe. Her vision with the brand is that it will the start of something bigger, perhaps a jewelry company or something else where proceeds go to help people. She wants to go into business, and had planned to visit colleges during spring break, until COVID-19 hit.
“I have a website for Hooves and Hope and have further been promoting Hooves and Hope on social media such as Instagram,” she said. “The overwhelming response has been equally positive and inspiring. Hooves and Hope has been greatly received, and this is just the start.”
Lauren said she priced the necklaces to keep them affordable and all proceeds go to Feeding America, even after the pandemic is over. The small necklace ($24) provides for eight meals, and the larger one ($30) provides for ten meals through Feeding America.
“It makes me so happy because people get excited to help others,” she stated.
So far, in the three weeks since launching, Hooves and Hope’s necklace sales have provided for 267 meals. Visit her website at HoovesAndHope.org.
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].