How many times do parents give their kids a gift and watch as they unwrap it, waiting with anticipation to see the look of pure delight when they see the toy, only to have them more excited about playing with the wrapping paper or box instead? That’s the magic of children – they don’t need much have fun. In everything practical, they find the potential for play.
A mom of two young boys, Ryan Flaim knows the world of imagination in which children live. She sees it every day watching her sons Cameron, 5, and Luca, 4, play, and remembers it being the way her nephew Ryder spent his three short years on earth.
It’s been nearly five years since Ryder Gordon Brown passed away, but Flaim can easily recall his playful spirit.
“He was just one of those incredibly outgoing, funky, happy little kids. A kid who loved to play – flying kites and playing Frisbee, flying around on his little scooter. That was Ryder,” said Flaim.
His favorite color was orange, he lived every single moment of his life with all of the brightness, curiosity, and tenacity represented by the color, she said.
Ryder, who was born in New York, was visiting Flaim and her family for the holidays in December 2014 when he came down with what they thought was a typical seasonal cold. He turned out to have pneumonia, then MRSA, too, which wreaked havoc on his little body. On Jan. 18, 2015, Ryder died surrounded by his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles while his dad read him one of his favorite books “The Shape of My Heart.”
Flaim wanted to find a way to honor his life and keep his name in the world. She thought of creating a line of orange-lined blankets, but that didn’t seem quite right.
“I wanted something a little more spectacular – like he was,” she said. “Then I thought, what about a blanket that could also be a cape? A superhero cape.”
The idea sat in Flaim’s head until she worked up the nerve to take her first sewing class since seventh grade. She developed a pattern for the Hero Blanket, a cozy blankie that could transform into a superhero cape. She later launched Orange Lining, a company in memory of Ryder, a children’s accessory line that aims to inspire imaginative play.
“Through Orange Lining I sought to create a platform to remind us all that every day is a gift and inspire kids -- and parents -- to find the orange lining in life,” she said.
The idea is that the blanket grows with the child – going from a source of comfort as a cuddly baby blankie to a source of adventure as a flowing cape for toddlers and big kids. It comes in three materials – lightweight muslin, minky plush, or soft cotton jersey – and an array of colors and designs. Monogramming gives each a personal touch, and a matching cloth crown tops it all off.
While a blanket-cape seems like an easy enough concept, Flaim went through many different iterations and prototypes before settling on patent-pending design featuring two Velcro tabs. As a blanket, it’s safe to put in with a sleeping baby, and as a cape, it’s easy enough for a toddler to pull off.
The adjustable, fastening design has other functions too: it works as a nursing cover, no-drop stroller blanket, bucket seat cover, tummy time mat and more.
When Flaim first launched the business in late 2017, she was sewing the blankets herself, staying up all hours of the night to fulfill orders from the living room of her Duxbury home. Since then, it’s been a learn-as-you-go process, she said. She’s learned about fabrics, manufacturing, and more.
Last year after working long days and nights to launch the business, Flaim said her body started to shut down and she was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“Rather than let the fear takeover, I have embarked on a healing journey where I’m truly taking care of myself and healing deeply on every level," she said.
Flaim is dedicated to the core of the business’s mission -- to give back and to inspire children to find their superpowers. Through its “Buy a Blanket, Be A Hero” give-back program, the company donates a portion of proceeds to charities such as children’s hospitals. There is also a “Nominate a Hero” program celebrating acts of heroism of all shapes and sizes by gifting Hero Blankets to nominated children.
“In many ways, creating this company has become my own way of finding the Orange Lining in life,” said Flaim. “It has allowed me to create something that fills my days, my heart and my future with creativity, passion and purpose...and show my children you truly can accomplish anything you set your heart to.”