"I knew I wanted to sell a product, because I not only wanted to raise money but I also wanted to build awareness of the value and magic of a wish because we knew how it touched us," Sutter says.
It wasn't until Sutter was contacted by 8-year-old Elysia from Boardman that she had her answer.
Elysia, who was terminally ill, asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation to give a personally engraved gift to her family and friends so they had something to remember her by when she was gone. The Foundation put her in touch with Sutter, who donated to the girl 62 gifts of her choice, all engraved with her message.
The next year, Sutter commissioned a Christmas tree ornament engraved with Elysia's message, with $2 from every sale donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The ornament was an undeniable success throughout the personalized gift store chain's 800 locations.
"Not only do her friends and family remember her from that experience, but we told thousands and thousands of people across the United States about Elysia because every gift is dedicated to her memory," Sutter says. "I got my employees involved, I got my vendor involved and I got customers involved."
To date, Highland Heights-based Things Remembered has raised $700,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and is slated to break the $1 million mark by the end of the holiday season. This year, the program was expanded with a special gift box that can be purchased year-round, with $5 of every sale going to the Foundation.
Aside from Make-A-Wish, Things Remembered gears its community service work toward organizations that support families and children, like the Domestic Violence Center and the Fresh Air Camp, a summer camp for ventilator-dependent children.
"We're very focused on children and families, because our customer is a mom, and she's very family oriented," Sutter says. "That's what's near and dear to my heart and the hearts of our employees." How to reach: Things Remembered, (440) 473-2000