April George and Kerry Maunus met in the fall of 2013 while picking up their kids from school. Both new to the California Bay area, they struck up a friendship. As they enjoyed a daily walk around the neighborhood each morning, the women talked about their lives, likes and dislikes and, of course, their kids — April ‘s two daughters and Kerry’s three sons. And it was their kids who came to mind as one morning, their conversation turned to the upcoming holidays and how to teach their children that Thanksgiving was more about just turkey but also gratitude.
“Among the many things we had in common, we discovered Thanksgiving was both of our favorite holiday,” April tells First for Women. “We agreed it was such a meaningful day and the perfect time to focus on helping our kids understand and appreciate all the blessings they had in life. “
But they didn’t want to just sit the kids down and tick off a laundry list of things they had to be thankful for.
“We should do some kind of gratitude craft,” Kerry suggested. But what kind? the moms wondered, researching online until they came across a construction-paper turkey sporting feathers made of personal messages of gratitude.
They loved the idea but being busy moms, they thought it would be even better if there was a premade turkey that could be left out all month then used year after year, with their kids filling in its feathers of gratitude each day. Suddenly, it hit them: “We should make a thankfulness turkey ourselves!”
Crafting a new Thanksgiving tradition
Using their kids’ craft supplies, April and Kerry tried several variations to no avail — until April’s husband volunteered to give it a try.
“He made this adorable Styrofoam turkey with big eyes, bright red wattle and heart-shaped paper clips on the tail to hold the pretty paper feathers,” April says. “It was the cutest little turkey I’d ever seen and perfect for our project!”
But would her kids find the little guy as engaging as she did?
Putting the turkey on her counter, April encouraged her kids to write one thing they were grateful for over breakfast each morning. To her delight, the kids took to it immediately, finding immense joy in their daily gratitude practice. And she also filled with joy herself reading what they wrote. It was even a hit with their extended family visiting over the holiday, and when it was over, both moms knew they had sparked a new annual tradition.
Word spread and soon, other parents were buzzing about the pair’s sweet turkey, and April and Kerry realized they had something special — and they also knew they needed to go bigger.
A gratitude turkey giving hope to millions
Using their prototype, Kerry and April found a manufacturer to produce the turkeys. Calling it “Turkey on the Table,” the duo also created a children’s book to explain the concept of gratitude behind their product, and soon they were ready to present their boxed turkey, book and feather kit at the Atlanta Home Show.
“We were so excited and grateful,” the women say. And in the spirit of gratitude that sparked the idea to create their table-top turkey, they decided their turkey should also be a means of giving back to their community. At the 2015 launch, the duo raised money for a local food bank and went on to partner with Feeding America to donate 10 meals to families in need with each turkey purchased. To date, more than 1.5 million meals have been donated!
“I’ve learned giving thanks for what we have inspires us to give back — it creates a loving loop!” smiles April. “And spreading hope and joy to the people who receive these meals, as well as to families sharing their gratitude with one another, is such a gift in our own lives!”
Kerry shares April’s feelings and has seen the shift that daily gratitude has made in her family. “As I watched my children write down what they were most grateful for each day, I learned so much about them, and it brought us all closer as a family. That’s what practicing daily gratitude has done for us: It’s changed our lens to focus on all the love and good in our lives, instead of what we don’t have. It shines a light on all the silver linings, which opens us up to so much joy!”
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