Flathead Living Winter 2009/2010 : Page 32

Designed By Heart

Clint Walker

over 30 years ago, a young man named Stephen Isley traded his life in the city for one where his creative aspirations would be fulfi lled. And so, in 1973, he began to design jewelry out of his home and soon had a small space he operated as a design studio with Sam McGough, who recognized Stephen’s talent and invested the time teaching him some of the other aspects of the jewelry retail trade. Eventually, Stephen met his wife, Cindy Just, a silversmith apprentice; the two slowly built what is today a thriving custom jewelry business and a fi xture on Central Avenue in Whitefi sh.<br /> <br /> Stephen and Cindy have spent a lifetime building a relationship with the Yogo Mine—and their customers, who come from around the world. “You never know who is going to walk through that door,” said Cindy during a casual interview. Indeed, and when a rough looking man walked through their door in the Winter of 2008, they had no idea that it would lead to the journey of selfdiscovery that followed….<br /> <br /> The man explained that he was in town to see his son compete in the Special Olympics. “We talked shop for a while,” said Stephen. “And he revealed that he had traded his gold mine in Alaska for the Yogo Mine in Utica, Montana. And, in the spirit of the Wild West, he was working the mine himself.” It was an instant friendship and the man was so impressed with Stephen’s design that he drove all night to Great Falls and back to retrieve a treasure that he was excited to share with Stephen.<br /> <br /> “He walked into our gallery the next day with a box tucked under his arm,” recalled Stephen. And he said, “I have a favor to ask of you both.” He then asked them if they would design a custom piece around the three stones and, opening the box, he revealed three brilliant trillioncut, cornflower blue, Montana Yogo Sapphires. The finished piece would then be donated to Montana Special Olympics to be sold at their annual auction.<br /> <br /> For Stephen and Cindy, the opportunity to design around such beautiful stones was exciting. But they both later revealed that they had no idea how emotionally fulfilling the entire experience would be. “We didn’t realize, at the time, that we would be designing a piece that would mean so much to so many people,” Stephen said. As the creative process began, the couple soon announced that one piece would become three individual pieces: a necklace pendant and matching earrings.<br /> <br /> Months went by, and as the pieces took shape, Stephen and Cindy began to think about the implications of this gift. Stephen and Cindy candidly admit that they were aware of the Special Olympics previously, but now have a special connection.<br /> <br /> The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.<br /> <br /> Montana’s Special Olympics exist in large part due to the individual donations it receives from businesses, private parties and the families of athletes. We were fortunate enough to be there the day that Stephen Isley and his wife Cindy presented the donation to Special Olympics Montana President and CEO Bob Norbie and Special Olympics Montana, VP of Development Jim Lawrence and Special Olympics Ambassador and Athlete Chrissy Sieske. The moment the donation was unveiled was overwhelming for all in attendance.<br /> <br /> This year’s Winter Special Olympics will begin on Sunday, February 28th at 3 p.m. with a Parade of Athletes down Central Avenue in Whitefish. On March 1st, the first competition begins up at the Whitefish Mountain Resort. Other events will also be held at The Wave.<br /> <br /> If you would like to find out more information about the Special Olympics of Montana, including the competitions or the 2010 Auction where you may place your bid on this extraordinary donation, or if you would like to view the piece in person, stop by Stephen Isley Jewelry in Whitefish or contact Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) directly.<br /> <br />

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