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The company was founded by siblings Annie and Stevie Hopkins in 2007 to promote their unique symbol and social model of disability. The company's trademarked International Symbol of Acceptance is the drive behind its social mission to help those within the disability community to embrace diversity, educate society, and feel empowered to love life. What was once just a tiny Chicago disability pride clothing brand is now an international movement of acceptance. People with disabilities are everywhere, and thousands of t-shirts and other items later, so is the 3E LOVE message.
The journey of 3E LOVE began in 2004 when Annie created the "wheelchair heart symbol" for a dorm t-shirt while she and Stevie were undergraduate students together at the University of Illinois. As a community health major interested and passionate about disability studies, Annie wanted to display the symbol as a sign of acceptance. She had it permanently tattooed on her shoulder shortly after she created it. Friends, family, and peers in the disability community were instantly drawn to her new tattoo, and many even got it themselves. Annie moved to Chicago after graduation to pursue independent living and a Ph.D. in disability studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. There, she found her calling in life to be an advocate and leader in the disability community. Stevie graduated simultaneously to work a full-time job with investments and part-time jobs in the local music scene. They both knew that eventually, they wanted to combine forces to make a difference behind Annie's "wheelchair heart symbol" but were unsure how and when.
The first big step was in 2007 when they incorporated 3E LOVE, LLC. and legally protected the symbol. While Annie worked to complete her Ph.D., 3E LOVE was a placeholder for a future neither understood, but the motto and corporate mission were ironed out in the meantime, and t-shirts were sold at events to keep the company afloat.
In January of 2009, an unexpected tragedy occurred when Annie went into the hospital for a simple procedure but had complications that led to infection and her eventual passing. Annie's future was bright, and her work in advocacy had only just begun, and 3E LOVE had not even taken off yet. Driven by the support and love of family, friends, and the Chicago disability community, Stevie decided to continue the mission he and Annie started. He knew that it would be much more difficult without Annie's charisma, passion for advocacy, and disability studies education. Still, he sought to do his best to spread her symbol and accompanying message to embrace, educate, empower and love life.