Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Today marks the final broadcast of the beloved Oprah Winfrey Show. After the countdown of special guests, show surprises and fanfare, the grand finale is here. Today we can all watch the final chapter of a 25-year media phenomenon.
Heritage Makers would like to take this opportunity to salute the enormous contributions of Ms. Winfrey and the legacy of inspiration, compassion, empowerment, and understanding she has established and encouraged. It may have started out as just another television talk show, but it soon became so much more. Millions have been impacted in positive ways, and as heritage makers, we count ourselves as part of that group because Oprah helped us introduce countless readers to the magic of storybooking.
In December 2008 she listed Heritage Makers storybooks as one of her “Top Ten All-Time Favorite Gifts” in her O, The Oprah Magazine holiday gift guide issue! Shortly thereafter, her best friend and magazine editor-in-chief Gayle King talked glowingly about HM products to Robin Roberts on a Good Morning America holiday gift segment. It was wonderful exposure for a young and growing company based in Utah.
How did Oprah Winfrey know about Heritage Makers? The answer lies in the inventiveness and moxie of a single mother of two from Waterloo, Iowa. In 2007, Brenda Ebel Kruse read an editorial by Oprah describing her grief over the accidental death of her dog, Gracie. Brenda was not a “dog person” but resonated with the life lessons Oprah was able to glean from the tragic experience.
Using the editorial content and photos from the article, Brenda created a simple tribute to Gracie in the form of a 5 x 5 storybook. Brenda was certain Oprah would appreciate the gesture, but how to deliver the finished project? She first tried sending it to the celebrity’s dog trainer thinking she would see that it reached the intended recipient. After several months of no response, Brenda decided to send it directly to Harpo Studios in Chicago with the hope that the right person would put it into Oprah’s hands.
On May 28, 2008 at 5:46 p.m., Brenda was unpacking groceries in the kitchen when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver, but hearing no voice, set it down and returned to the groceries. A minute later the phone beeped with a voice mail notification and Brenda got the surprise of her life as she listened to a message from Oprah Winfrey herself! The rest of the story is best told in Brenda’s own words:
“I listened to that famous voice say how thankful she was for the ‘lovely, lovely book’ and how it was “such a treasure. She talked about how she had gotten the book just in time to honor the one-year anniversary of Gracie’s death and said she’d read it on that day as a memorial to Gracie.
Oprah went on to say that she loves the idea of everyone having a story and even quoted the tag line on the book sleeve: “‘every story deserves a book of its own,’ you know I believe in that!”
After hearing her minute-long message, I was scared to death that I was going to hit the wrong button and delete the proof that she really did call me, so I carefully hit the save button and then screamed, jumped up and down, and called my family and friends with the unbelievable news.
At first I was disappointed I didn’t get to talk to her but then realized that I probably would have either been speechless or just rambled on nonstop. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to remember exactly what she said. Now that I have her voicemail recorded forever, I can’t ever forget this memorable thank-you!”
Brenda’s thoughtful gesture will forever be part of the lore of Heritage Makers. To this day, one of the first things you’ll hear from a consultant is that “We are one of Oprah’s favorite things!” This is both a tribute to an epic communicator and opinion leader AND the power of story.
See a preview of Brenda’s storybook and hear the actual recording of Oprah’s thank you message here.