Inspirational local business emerges from daunting diagnosis
A widely-respected southeast-Michigan-based filmmaker, Paris Jones has always been a spreader of eternal sunshine, even on the cloudiest of days.
“Since I’ve known him, no matter what he was going through, Paris would always say, ‘You only live once, you only live once’ — it was his way of telling people to make the most of every day,” said Alison Rodriguez-Jones, Paris Jones’ wife.
In October of 2019 — after a days-long bout with excruciating pain — Paris Jones was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a treatable but non-curable cancer.
According to MayoClinic.org, multiple myeloma causes “cancerous plasma cells to accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause complications.”
The Jones family — Paris, Alison and their children Jahvon (19), Levi (9) and Aurora (5) — who moved from Livonia to Plymouth in 2019, have learned first-hand over the past three-plus years that the “can cause complications” is an understatement.
Positive attitude throughout the pain
A native of New York who studied acting at the renowned Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Paris, 42, has lived with unimaginable pain, been prescribed monthly chemotherapy pills he will take the rest of his life and has endured agonizing stem cell treatments since the diagnosis.
The fashion in which her husband has maintained his upbeat attitude gave Alison an idea: Let’s turn that positivity into a business, the potential revenue helping the family navigate while both wage-earners (Alison owns Bella Vi salons in Plymouth and Livonia) were forced to miss work during Paris’s initial month-long hospitalization and early-recovery period.
“Any time something has come up since his diagnosis, Paris says, ‘I’m just happy to be alive’,” Alison shared. “I thought, ‘Let’s put that on a T-shirt and try to sell them’ … to generate a little more income for our family.”
She met with a friend and owner of Ink Detroit, a Hazel Park-based printing company and before long Alive+Kind was born.
“Half of the name came from Paris saying almost daily, ‘I’m just happy to be alive’; the other half comes from my mission to spread kindness everywhere I go,” Alison explained.
“Our ‘Happy To Be Alive’ T-shirts were selling pretty well, so I decided to expand the line to support people with other illnesses. For example, one is a mental illness-themed shirt that says, ‘i hope you’re ok’.”
The brand grew in popularity, especially with the support of the Joneses’ families, acquaintances and co-workers, “but I wanted to get it out there to a bigger audience,” Alison explained.
Mark Rodriguez, Alison’s brother (and Westland John Glenn alum) and the founder of Los Angeles-based Mastermynd Media, suggested to his sister to take to social media — namely TikTok — to help grow the brand.
A greater presence on social media — combined with Detroit-area news coverage on the business — boosted sales exponentially, so much so that Alive+Kind has donated a percentage of its sales to a nonprofit organization that helps provide gifts to families that are struggling with debilitating illnesses.
One heartwarming TikTok video of 5-year-old Aurora Jones helping her dad put on his socks generated over 8.5 million views.
Alive+Kind has expanded its offerings from simply T-shirts to everything from hoodies and hats to protective iPhone cases.
While the effects of multiple myeloma continue to create daily struggles for Paris, he embraces each day with an exuberance we can all learn from.
Because, after all, we only live once.
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