3E LOVE, LLC. is a social entrepreneurial experiment to change the perception of disability. The company was started by siblings Annie & Stevie Hopkins in 2007 with the intent of promoting their unique symbol and social model of disability. The company's trademarked International Symbol of Acceptance (wheelchair heart logo) is the drive behind its social mission to provide the tools for others to embrace diversity, educate society, and empower each other to love life. What was once just a small 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.
"3E LOVE IS MORE THAN LIVING DISABLED BUT IS SIMPLY ABOUT LIVING. EVERYONE HAS THE FREEDOM TO LIVE THEIR LIFE. WE CHALLENGE YOU TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE, BECAUSE YOU'LL MEET SOME AMAZING PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY, AND THAT, OUR FRIENDS, IS HOW YOU'LL ENJOY THIS RIDE THAT 3E LOVE CALLS, LIFE.
EMBRACE DIVERSITY. EDUCATE YOUR COMMUNITY. EMPOWER EACH OTHER. LOVE LIFE."
- 3E LOVE FOUNDER, ANNIE HOPKINS (1984-2009)
WHO IS ANNIE AND HOW DID 3E LOVE COME TO BE?
3E Love, LLC. and it's properties are the creation of the late Annie Hopkins (1984-2009), who as an advocate, entrepreneur, artist, and student, demonstrated what is possible when you love life. An- nie's accomplishments in her academic, social, and family life were vast and will be remembered dearly, but her spirit and message can live on forever through the work she left for others to finish.
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 with an interest and passion for disability studies, Annie used the symbol on her shoulder for a permanent tattoo. Friends, family, and peers in the disability community were instantly drawn to her new tattoo, and many even got it themselves. Annie soon thereafter moved to Chicago after graduation to pursue independent living and a PhD in disability studies at the Univer- sity of Illinois-Chicago. There, she found her calling in life to be an advocate and leader in the com- munity. Stevie graduated at the same time 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 PhD, 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 he and Annie started. He knew that it would be so much more difficult without Annie’s charisma, passion for advocacy and disability studies education, but he sought to do his best to spread her symbol and accompanying message to embrace, educate, empower and love life.
MEANING OF SYMBOL
3E Love's registered trademark, the "International Symbol of Acceptance" also known as the "wheelchair-heart logo," is the drive behind much of the company's goals and products. It is a symbol of society accepting people with disabilities as equals and a symbol that people with disabilities accept their challenges and even embrace them. By replacing the wheel with a heart, the stigma of the wheelchair is also removed, and it can be a symbol for people with any disability or impairment. It represents the person, not society's perception of him or her.
The symbol is an attitude and a lifestyle. It's accepting one's abilities and rallying around that diversity and turn- ing it into strength. It's loving and living life to the fullest no matter who you are and what you look like, no matter what you can or cannot do.
To Annie, it was the tattoo on the back of her shoulder that opened up so many doors for her. People would come up to her on the street and tell her how much they liked it. She would befriend them, and they would realize that she is more than a woman in a chair. It was a social conversation piece at the start, but she soon realized it was so much more than that and could have a positive impact on others the way it had for her.
To Stevie, the symbol means – "No I am not in a wheelchair, I use one – and I love that I do! I wouldn't change that for anything. Everything I am and who I have become is directly connected to my disability. And I love the life I have, and try to love it even more on the bad days. The symbol is also a statement – I am not just a person in a chair, I am a man who has friends and a family, who loves, who wants to be loved, who is educated, wants to achieve great things, and who wants to love every year on earth, whether it's 85 or 28 years."