Chocolate Elephants, Miracles and Life-Changing Paths
I am convinced now that I am not dreaming nor being punked. Thank you for sending the images. See you all soon!!
Have a Bless Day!
- Echo Bonner
In September of 2017, we received an inquiry from a young lady in Alabama for an elephant cake topper. One of the most amazing parts for me was the party wasn’t until April 2018, and in my chocolate world, many inquiries are last second - including days before the event! As the months went on, she was diligent in checking in and seeing how the adorable chocolate elephant was progressing. The thing is, I don’t start sculpting until days before the event keeping the taste beautiful and amazing. I was also apprehensive to send rough looking pictures early on looking nothing like the final chocolate art! With a week to go before the party I started to sculpt and apprehensively sent her over a progress picture!
My original plan was to ship the 8 inch elephant with the help of Liane Wanson at Chocolate Compass. Liane is a guru of shipping chocolate; you look up integrity in the dictionary and her smiling face is shining through. Shipping overnight with Liane's help was the most cost effective, least risky way of getting the topper from Orlando to Alabama 100% intact. The strange this was, I had a continual tugging on my emotions to not ship and hand deliver the chocolate art. How amazing would it be if I showed up at her doorstep in a joyous surprise. I thought, why not take the mundane act of shipping and create a miraculous experience out of this!
My assistant searched flights with all the last second tickets ridiculously expensive at around $700 round-trip. I couldn’t justify spending $700+. We looked into using travel points, and amazingly that idea brought it down to $80. The problem now was a taxi or uber was $200 for an hour drive and based on the flight times, an overnight stay was required, increasing the expense back to way too high. At this point, I was doubtful the idea was going to work out, but I wasn't ready to give up. I thought of my old neighbors who now live in Alabama and sent over a message of my plans. It turns out Michael lives 7 miles from the airport and welcomed me with open arms solving all of the issues. Creating a miraculous experience from nothing was coming together!
Arriving at her apartment, she cracked open the door, peeked out at me in disbelief immediately closing the door and opening it up again. She really appeared stunned that I’m standing at her doorstep and we gave each other a big hug. We spent more than an hour talking, smiling and laughing. She walked me over to a corner table in the living room and it was full of 8 or more beautiful elephant sculptures. It was the moment I really got how amazing this cake topper was for her Mom's 70th surprise birthday party and her family. Visiting her was so inspiring and joyful. I was touched by the connection we had and the opportunity to contribute their family.
That evening I stayed at Michael’s home and the next morning I was getting ready to leave. We were chatting away and all of a sudden he says, "Paul, I have something to tell you I’ve told very few people in my life. I think you are the 3rd person I am going tell, ever." I was thinking, huh, what could this possibly be about and listened without judgment or reaction. He told me that as a teenager he was caught up in sex trafficking and he’s had severe emotional distress that he has never dealt with - the PTSD was slowly tearing his life apart physically and emotionally. Michael was reaching out to me in the space of need and assistance. We had not had a serious conversation our entire friendship, yet he was reaching out to me about a profound, debilitating, emotional pain he has never dealt with.
I immediately thought of an associate that has dedicated her life as an activist against sex trafficking, Jan Edwards of Paving the Way. I know Jan through work I’ve done with Landmark Wordwide. I shared their contact information and gave Michael the emotional and physical space to muster the courage to call her. After a few days, he did call and it has altered his life forever.
Since that day, he's built a support system with other sex trafficking survivors and Michael is in the process of creating a nonprofit organization called 5% to benefit THORN and other organizations battling human trafficking and caring for survivors. He is partnering with a self defense instructor and they are on board to teach parents and young ones and how to be better prepared in situations. Jan told Michael there is only about 5% of human trafficking victims that survive. Michael shared with me, "I felt so sick after hearing this and felt rage that we, as a so called civilized society, would allow this to continue. I found my light and my passion. I am waging a war against human trafficking and as long as there is air in my lungs I will fight to increase that number."
A fun jaunt across the country to create joy and adventure, turned into a life-changing path and profound shift for Michael in providing for himself and so many other survivors like him.
What a miracle of a trip.