SPRING ARBOR, Mich. — Danielle Allore-Taylor always loved her stuffed animals.
“This is rabbit. My mom used to fix him for me. So, that’s kind of where I started thinking as I got older, I could fix him and fix other stuffed animals,” Allore-Taylor said.
But a bit of luck, a stuffed dog named Max, and a viral video made it something more.
In 2020, Allore-Taylor was hired as an assistant for a music therapy program. Then she was laid off and turned to her favorite hobby: restoring stuffed animals.
Someone she didn't know contacted her "pretty much out of the blue,” said Darren Taylor, Danielle's husband.
“I had a woman, her name was Ora,” Allore-Taylor said. “She messaged me and said, ‘I have a stuffed dog. I've been looking for months for someone to fix him do you think you could help me?’ So I did.”
She recorded the restoration process on TikTok.
The video now has more than 5 million views.
“We sat down for dinner and I checked my phone after dinner and I thought, 'Oh my gosh. What is happening? My phone is blowing up,' and that night was kind of a game-changer for us of, ‘Hey this is something, you know, a little side business that we can do,” Allore-Taylor said. “Overnight I went from, 'What am I going to do for a living?' to 'I may need help with all of this amazing opportunity.'”
Her husband said it “just lit like fire.
"Like just so much people watching it and then more people have been asking to have her do things," he said. "It's been quite overwhelming but in a good way just because we have all these stuffed animals now coming in from different areas of the country and even a couple I think from the world.”
It blew up to the point where producers for "The Drew Barrymore Show" took notice. Allore-Taylor initially thought it was a prank but after they contacted her again, she realized it was no joke.
“They graciously gave me a $5,000 gift card from Joann Fabrics, so that alone has helped me be able to get all kinds of supplies for this and it's been a huge blessing,” Allore-Taylor said.
Danielle has restored around 100 stuffed animals since her business started in December. She works out of her basement with the help of her family.
Her 10-year-old daughter Lyla Brodock says she helps out and sometimes gets overwhelmed by the number of stuffed animals they receive.
“Whenever my mom first started this I was kind of thinking, 'What if this kind of blows?' but it surprisingly didn't,” Brodock said.
And she has her eyes set on one particular stuffed animal.
A person contacted Danielle to do a replica of the customer’s pet fish that passed away. The person has yet to respond to Danielle, though she’s tried for months to contact her. Bodock wants it.
“You can just spray paint it black and make it my black fishy,” Brodock said to her mom. “I had a black beta fish that unfortunately passed away. Just spray paint it black, give it to me, and I can hug it.”
But there's one stuffed animal she won’t be hugging: a clown Danielle restored.
“I had nightmares for like three days straight,” Brodock said.
Danielle isn’t doing this just for a paycheck.
“I’ve always had it my heart to want to give back to people,” Allore-Taylor said. “Because I've had people tell me, ‘Oh, you're not charging enough,’ and I think it's not about that. For me, it's about giving back. There are memories attached to these stuffed animals, blankets, dolls whatever it may be and these people want to preserve that memory. That's why I do it. That's because I know I'd want someone to do that for me if they have the talent to do it.”
Dominque Linden knows firsthand the type of person Danielle is. She has a stuffed bear named Christina that has been with her since she was 2 years old.
“She’s been with me through a lot most of my life. Well, my adult life she stayed in my closet because she continued to get dirtier and messier. She's white obviously,” Linden said. “I didn't know this at the time, but a lot of the trauma I went through as a child was kind of correlated with her so, when Danielle posted that she was going to be doing this, it just came into my mind that I could probably really benefit from that and so could my teddy bear.”
Linden met Allore-Taylor about a year and a half ago through mutual friends. They bonded over movies. Allore-Taylor talked her out of throwing Christina away.
“It struck a chord with me that it wasn't just about fixing and mending fabric,” Allore-Taylor said. “It was about mending hearts too. Giving that stuffed animal back to her was a huge moment for me.”
Allore-Taylor started a trauma relief fund for people who had gone through a traumatic event because of Dominique.
“If there are people who have a stuffed animal they went through a traumatic event or they can't afford it that's when I come in and use donations that were given to me to do that restoration for them for free and it makes me happy that I can be a part of that healing,” Allore-Taylor said.
“It was emotional,” Linden said. “We talked about how it was symbolic of what I had gone through. I've really worked hard to heal from the trauma in my past and so for her to get a bath and new stuffing …. she used to have like this really, really raggedy bow so she replaced the bow. To see her transformation after years of just continually getting dirtier was pretty cool.”
If you are interested in getting your stuffed animal restored you can visit here. There’s a form you can fill out.
Allore-Taylor says to be patient as she has “thousands” of requests on her e-mail.
If you wish to donate to their Trauma Restoration Fund they have a PayPal for that.
This story was originally published by Joe Gebhardt at WSYM.