Meet the Staff!

Meet the Staff!

Emmalyn Meyer

Julia Epling

This is Julia’s third year on staff. When she was a child, her Eeyore stuffed animal, which she asked her parents to buy for her when they went to Disneyland.

“I kept asking for them to buy it for me all week, and on the last night, I basically forced them to get it for me,” Epling said.

As a child, Eeyore helped her feel comfortable when she slept by him during thunderstorms. She still has Eeyore today, but his active presence in her life has decreased over the years.

“He’s hiding in my closet somewhere right now,” Epling said. “Maybe one day he’ll come out.”


Mikayla Havison

This is Mikayla’s fourth year on staff. As a child, her go-to stuffed friend was a plush frog named Little Froggy, who still occupies her bedroom.

“Whenever I was having a bad day, I would tell Little Froggy stories about other frogs and we would both feel better,” Havison said.

She feels he played a large part in her emotional support, even going through hardships of his own, like having his eyes chewed out by a dog. Although that was hard for her to witness, it brought them closer in the end. She still has Little Froggy today and can feel that he is there even if she does not actively seek him.

“He’s my rock if things go wrong,” Havison said. “He’s always here emotionally.”

Pictured is Havison, along with a picture of Little Froggy from her mother’s baby shower and a poem her mother wrote about Little Froggy.


Elyssa Huff

This is Elyssa’s third year on staff. Her favorite childhood stuffed animals were a bear and dog blanket – Bear and Dan, respectively – both of which were pink. They brought her comfort when she needed it.

“I would snuggle with them in place of pillows to help me sleep,” Huff said.

She recalls the numerous times she begged her mother to resew Bear’s paws after they were destroyed by a dog. Oftentimes, she was a part of the sewing process.

“I would say, ‘No! We have to save them!’” Huff said.

Today, Huff does not see much of Bear and Dan, but they remain dear to her heart. Also, she desires to own a goat.


Ganga Subramanian

Ganga has been on staff since the fall semester of this academic year. She had a favorite teddy bear when she was younger, and she recalls dragging it around the house as a constant comfort.

“I don’t really remember my childhood,” Subramanian said. “The teddy bear was probably there to support me emotionally, but I don’t remember.”


Madeline Phuong
This is Madeline’s first year on the staff. Her cherished stuffed animal as a child was Rainbow, a rainbow dog, “like from Blues Clues, but more colorful.”

Rainbow was very obedient and supportive of her various childhood whims, and she recalls fondly that he inspired her to be better every day.

“When my parents yelled at me for not eating my veggies, he was there,” Phuong said.

Once, Rainbow suffered the fate many stuffed dogs face, when he was ripped apart by a real dog. Phuong sewed him back together with the aid of her grandmother, and though he feels more whole than before, he still looks lopsided as a result of the operation.

Rainbow is somewhere out there, Phuong claims, and he continues to support her from the sidelines.


Claire Elliott

This is Claire’s second year on staff. Her two favorite toys as a child were a golden retriever Pillow Pet named Ruf Ruff (spelling was stylistically changed) and a small wind-up rubber chipmunk named Chicky.

“I was a creative child,” Elliott said, “and sometimes offensive.”

Her parents hated Chicky, despite the love that Elliott and the chipmunk shared. She refused to let go of him from her hand, as she was prone to losing chipmunks frequently.

“I had many iterations of Chicky, including Chickette, who I found in the grass,” Elliott said. “I would lose one, and then it would show up out of nowhere.”

Elliott firmly believes that when she cuts the tag on a stuffed animal, it comes alive.


Katelyn Styborski

This is Katelyn’s first semester on staff. As a child, she favored an orange tabby cat named Amber, aka Momma Milky, as well as a smaller version of Amber named Milky – they were mother and daughter.

“One of my favorite memories is how she taught so many lessons to her children, mostly about being kind to others, even to bullies,” Styborski said. “I played make-believe a lot as a child, and she was a great mentor character.”

To Styborski, Amber was more than a plush cat; she helped to raise her and served as a maternal figure. The cat offered wisdom and comfort when she most needed it.

“She was an outlet for my insecurities, as she served as a mature, adult figure who not only taught my other childhood stuffed animals, but myself as well,” Styborski said.


Kaiya Cronkhite

Kaiya is in her first semester on staff. While she had “millions” of stuffed friends when she was growing up, she recalls one in particular that she spent a lot of time with. The name escapes her, but she remembers naming it something lamb-related, despite the animal being one other than a lamb.

“It helped me a lot because it was a stability in kind of an unpredictable home life and it was of course something that I could cling to all the time,” Cronkhite said. “It helped a lot with my anxiety growing up.”

Cronkhite still has the animal today and, although she does not sleep with it like she used to, she still holds an affinity for the comfort it brought her.

“It’s just in my closet, because I’m too attached to it to get rid of it,” Cronkhite said.


Jacob Houser

This is Jacob’s second year as a Spartana staff member. He did not have many stuffed animals; rather, he had equipment from nearly any sport imaginable, and he was able to learn and play those sports with relatives, friends, and mentors. He has strong memories tied to sports now because of the obsession he had with them as a kid.

“Specific memories, like playing backyard football almost every day in elementary school, or playing football at one of my dad’s best friends’ wedding with all of the groomsmen as a really young kid, still occupy their respective corners of my mind,” Houser said.

A big part of why sports mean so much to Houser is the staying power that they have. Even if he doesn’t play the sports himself, he can be a fan and become attached to teams and athletes. They are also an easy distraction from life itself, and a constant source of entertainment that can bring people together in a way many activities cannot.

“When my grandpa died, one of the easiest ways for me to connect with him and have fond memories was to go back and watch highlights from all of the Notre Dame and Michigan football we watched together,” Houser said. “For something so simple and so common, I really do think sports have a lot of sentimental value to them.”


Thomas Hill

Thomas is in his first semester as a staff member. His most prized stuffed animal as a child was an orange elephant named, “so originally,” as he puts it, Orange Ellie.

Orange Ellie comforted Hill through nightmares and was a constant reassuring presence in his childhood. However, a time came when he needed to get rid of it at a garage sale, and when he placed Orange Ellie in the “free” box, thinking no one would take it, it was only taken more quickly by a young girl.

“I was sad then, but now I’m happy it went to someone who’ll actually use it,” Hill said.

Hill may not be with his beloved elephant today, but it reminds him often that he needs to let go of his attachments in order to help others.

“Today, when I’m reluctant to give something up, I remember how happy Orange Ellie made that little girl and resolve to let go of whatever I’m holding onto because it could help someone else more,” Hill said.


Luke Land

Luke has been on the Spartana staff for a year. As a child, his favorite stuffed animal was an elephant named Big Bird after the character on Sesame Street. Big Bird brought him comfort and protected him from his biggest adolescent fears.

“I can remember that I had to have him in order to sleep,” Land said. “I was really scared of the dark so he helped me feel safe when I slept.”

Land still has the elephant, and it sits atop his bed, providing comfort years later.

Originally published in the Spartana Issue 6 (March 2021)