Oklahoma Single Mom's Hand-Sewn Manta Ray for Son's 5th Birthday Inspires Outpouring of Generosity
“To a mom that was feeling alone and like a failure, this has been a reminder that there is a community for all of us, and when we need it most there is always someone there who can lift us up.”
Sometimes all it takes is a photo of a hand-sewn manta ray to inspire an ocean of generosity.
This particular manta ray—small, worn, and with lopsided button eyes—comes with a story of a mother's love, determination, and ingenuity.
Tiffany Holloway told The Washington Post that she wasn't surprised when her son Jonas asked for a plush manta ray for his fifth birthday earlier this month, as the youngster is "obsessed" with all things ocean related.
But two weeks before his August 16 birthday, Holloway, a single mom of four from McLoud, Oklahoma, looked at her bank account and realized she had an issue.
"I saw that I had only $2," she told the Post. "There was no way I could afford even the cheapest manta ray that I saw for $20."
So, Holloway got crafty. With a needle and some thread, she turned Jonas' blue baby blanket into a manta ray using a pattern she'd drawn on a cardboard box.
"I sat on the couch until 1 in the morning, poking myself with that needle until I'd finally finished sewing it together," she told the paper. "I took two buttons off one of my blouses and used those for eyes.
Holloway was so proud of her creation that she shared a photo of it on Reddit's poverty/finance page, which she said she follows for "money-saving tips."
"My son wanted a stuffed manta ray for his 5th birthday, but I didn't have money to buy one, so instead I converted his old baby blanket into one!" she wrote alongside the snap.
Holloway expected the post to receive a few comments, and maybe even some teasing about the ray's crooked eyes. She never expected what came next.
When she logged into her account the next day, more than 60,000 people had liked the photo. She was inundated with comments praising her craftiness and offers to help her and her sons who are recent survivors of domestic violence.
It wasn't long before Holloway's DIY manta ray became the No.1 post on Reddit, and soon hundreds of strangers were sending Jonas toy manta rays, squids, and other plush ocean creatures.
"The outpouring of love that has been heaped onto my family is a blessing beyond measure. Jonas is thrilled to have so many new plush friends and I am thrilled that my little boy, who has been through so much, has finally found his smile again," Holloway told Southern Living. "We are so incredibly grateful for everyone that made his birthday special."
One woman even sent the whole family to the Oklahoma City Zoo so Jonas could see and feed sting rays. Another man sent them to the aquarium in Oklahoma City where he saw a real manta ray for the first time.
A GoFundMe page for the family has currently raised more than $37,000.
"The kindness and generosity of people has not stopped," Holloway said. "It is a life changing experience. To a mom that was feeling alone and like a failure, this has been a reminder that there is a community for all of us, and when we need it most there is always someone there who can lift us up."
As for Jonas and his new collection of sea animal plushies? The one his mom made is his favorite.