Mimi Hymel is currently an upcoming senior at Arizona State University and will be the first graduating class with a specialized degree in social media marketing. Mimi is a Hurricane Katrina survivor and saw an opportunity to combine her social media skills with her heart for service to create a lasting impact for children impacted by disasters like Mimi was. Mimi is the CEO + Founder of the nonprofit, Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe, providing Comfort Bears and encouraging cards to children impacted by disasters.
Mimi Hymel will be graduating college from Arizona State University at 19 with a 4.0 GPA and the first graduating class with a specialized degree in social media marketing. She is a member of Omega Phi Alpha, a national service sorority at her school, where she was the former Vice President for the new member class, planning service activities. She also helped build over 15 homes for those after a disaster with Habitat For Humanity, not just providing a roof for these families, but leaving a Comfort Bear for each child, in each dedication basket for the families moving in. This partnership with Habitat For Humanity Orange County and Central Arizona, impacting over 50 families! She was even awarded the Presidential Service Award in 2019 for completing over 100+ hours of community service!
She doesn’t just excel at academics and community service, she is also breaking gender barriers on campus! As a female digital media intern for the Arizona State University Athletic Department, she’s making her mark in a mostly male-dominated sector (sports). This is one of many demonstrations of her tenacity.
Her nonprofit, Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe, is partnered with Habitat For Humanity Orange County and Central Arizona to leave a Comfort Bear for each child moving into a Habitat home in their dedication basket.
Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe is also partnered with the Riverside, California Red Cross where they gave over 100 Comfort Bears to children experiencing fires and other disasters in California.
Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe was the recipient of the California Goldman/Sutton grant, helping them launch their nonprofit to get where it is today. They were also able to donate over 100 Comfort Bears to the children impacted by the Miami Surfside building collapse in a partnership with the AJTC- Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. These children impacted are getting Comfort Bears with encouraging cards to let them know they now have a friend to talk to and they will recover from this.
Who or what motivates or inspires you to do the work you do?
As a child disaster survivor myself, people usually think about disasters as a short-term impact, not the long-lasting impacts they can have on a person. My family lost everything we owned in Hurricane Katrina. We had no home and no belongings. This left me scared without understanding what was happening. I was only a child when Hurricane Katrina hit my family, but I still had trauma from the disaster. This trauma followed me into my teen years. My dad was separated from us while we were evacuating, he worked at a hospital and had to help patients evacuate. Phone lines were down and we had no way to reach him and as a child, I was very confused and scared that my dad may never come back. It was a real possibility. A week after the storm my dad reunited with us, and as a result, in my early teen years, I found myself more attached to my family than most. I developed separation anxiety early in my teen years. I always told my parents I loved them every single night before bed and I wanted to constantly spend every minute with them out of fear that if they left again they might not come back. I tried to keep them close so I knew they were safe.
As a child going through this very scary and confusing time, having my teddy bear best friend, Cuddles to talk to would have helped immensely. I had a best friend, Cuddles, my teddy bear, that I took everywhere with me but when we evacuated we did not have room for things other than essential items so Cuddles was left behind to drown in the floodwaters. I also found myself going through a grieving process, unable to sleep most nights after losing my teddy bear Cuddles.
Not only was I grieving this loss of my childhood best friend, but as a result, I felt alone and scared, and felt like I had nobody to talk to about how I was feeling.
After evacuating we received help from the Red Cross. However, comfort items are not donated often to children impacted by disasters and after my experience, I knew I had to change that.
What are some projects that you are currently working on or promoting?
I’m the CEO + Founder of Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe, a nonprofit. Comfort Bears in a Catastrophe gives stuffed animals with handwritten cards of encouragement to children impacted by disasters.
The Comfort Bears help the children have a friend they can talk to so they can process their trauma, and so they don’t feel alone. The encouraging cards show someone cares about them and it helps them feel seen and loved while also giving them hope that they will recover from this and they will be ok.
Mimi Hymel wants to take her specialized degree in social media marketing, combined with her experience as a digital media intern for the Arizona State University Athletic Department to become a social media manager. She is also competing for the Miss California Teen USA crown this September, as a representative of Murrieta, California. Mimi wants to continue her mission to help child disaster victims gain hope and feel comforted as it holds a special place in her heart. Mimi is always looking for new ways to spread this mission and help more children.
Why should our readers support you and your brand?
These children impacted by disasters are simply not thought of. They need comfort items and encouragement, yet no organization is doing this for them. 30-60% of child disaster victims go on to face serious PTSD and mental health issues and Comfort Bears are making a difference in children’s mental health. These children are going through very traumatic events and need your support to recover and rebuild their lives.
Learn more about her mission here: www.comfortbearsinacatastrophe.com