What started as a dream of a local mother and wife has grown into an organization that is giving a voice to even the smallest people.
My Story Matters, a nonprofit organization that creates story books, uses real-life people for its storylines. The books then go to children and adults who are experiencing hardships or loss.
“I just felt a strong desire to reach out and help (people) to publish their own story about their lives,” said Amy Chandler, founder of My Story Matters.
Chandler, a mom of four, said she initially wanted to wait until her children had all grown up before following through on this idea but felt it was important to start now. The organization, which started two years ago, is funded by local businesses and individual contributors.
Anne-Greyson Long, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, studying communications, is filling one of six BYU internship positions that My Story Matters makes available each semester. Long, who is experienced in grant writing, is working on gaining funding for the organization.
“(My Story Matters) just became a 501(c)(3) pretty recently, so that’s opened up a lot of options for grants,” Long said. “That’s what I work mostly on.”
Community members can submit story nominations, which are then reviewed by a committee of board members who decide which stories to publish.
“I wish we could do them all,” Chandler said.
My Story Matters has three different lines of books: The Angel Series, The Gift Series and The Fighter Series.The Angel Series is dedicated to telling the stories of children who have passed away before the age of 12.
“The Angel Series is very difficult to recreate because they are gone,” Chandler said. “It makes me want to hug my little ones tighter.”
The Gift Series is dedicated to those individuals or families who are in need, and the stories and help given are tailored to their lives. The Fighter Series is dedicated to children under the age of 14 who are battling cancer and need to be uplifted and encouraged.
“We found that it’s a resource for these young children that have cancer or some debilitating disease that they can take that book to the hospital and show the nurses, the doctors, but also, in turn, because there’s life at the hospital and there’s life at home; they can take that book to their friends (who) are home and say, ‘This is what happens at the hospital,’” said Kellie Chatfield, a board member for My Story Matters. “It’s a story for them; it’s a story about them.”
Chatfield has been involved with My Story Matters from its beginning, and she helps wherever is needed. She and other interns design and create the books, recruit volunteers and find donations.
Lisa Minnick, from Draper, studying family life, is also an intern with My Story Matters. She became involved with My Story Matters after attending a career fair hosted by BYU.
“I wanted to do an internship that was more about service; I wanted it to be something that mattered,” Minnick said. “It was the service of doing something for somebody else.”
Minnick is a mom, and has returned to BYU to get her degree. She says as an intern she gets a lot of hours, but she gets to do them on her own time and in her own environment. Minnick said often she gets so involved that she works over her hours because she loves what she is doing.
Recently My Story Matters visited Journeys, a special needs home in Rigby, Idaho, where workers collected stories to make books for the adults and children living there.
“We went in and interviewed them and collected the data for the books. These were for our VIP books. We ask people around them, find key power words that define and describe them,” Chandler said.
The organizations set up a large photo room with 10 different photo stations including a nice portrait shot, a silly station, shots blowing bubbles and an art station. The photographs populate the book with the information that is collected from the interviews.
My Story Matters holds many such events that happen frequently. Its next event is at the end of the month, at which time volunteers can help create the books for children and adults.
“We create custom happiness,” Chandler said. “We can’t take away (a child’s) cancer, disabilities or bring them back, but we can give them a moment of happiness and preserve that for them.”