A legacy etched in clay

It's a business that began long before there were walls, lumps of clay or even the hands to make the bands.

It began with a family legacy a family whose lives have become intertwined with the university's history.

It started around the 1940s when Ed ('42) and Polly (Borton) Roush ('46) were students at Huntington College. They found a love for the institution, and that grew into a named hall, an interim presidency for the college, multiple recognitions and a family legacy.

That legacy found its way outside the walls of the institution in 2009 when their grandson, Luke Wright, began his dream of opening an art studio. With his grandmother's stamp set in hand, he started what would become a profitable enterprise that would inspire so many.

MudLOVE, primarily located in Warsaw, Ind., is a for-profit company that makes inspirational bands and other clay items to sell around the country and the world. What makes this company so special is that they donate 20 percent of all sales to fund clean water projects in Africa.

"The foundation of the business is from God, making the business about more than just myself," Wright said.

Since its founding, Wright has been able to grow his business to more than 30 employees at two locations. He even hired two Huntington alumni to help with the operation.

"You can see the real impact that we are making," said Sean Cruse, a 2012 animation graduate. "The bands, it's such a small thing, but it's such a powerful thing."

Cruse and fellow alum, Kyle Garberson, a 2013 philosophy alum, work in the shop on various projects from helping with the business model to sales to assisting on the creative side.

For these two alums, their HU education has been invaluable to their experience at MudLOVE by pushing them in their way of thinking and showing them how to gain the knowledge they may be lacking.

"My philosophy of education has been instrumental to what I'm doing at MudLOVE," Garberson said, explaining that his philosophy classes taught him how to think and how to communicate. He said that he is constantly learning new business techniques, and the reason he can succeed is because of the way he was taught to learn at HU.

For Cruse, his work in animation is a natural progression to his work in clay at MudLOVE, but it was the company's dedication to clean water projects that really caught his attention.

While at HU, Cruse helped to create the animated short film, "Refresh," as a way to demonstrate the disparity between people who are privileged and those who live without. The film asks audiences to take a hard look at how people use limited resources and if there is any way to help those with less.

"Right now, where I'm at, it's perfect," Cruse said. "It's not quite animation, but it's getting there."

The impact that MudLOVE has had has gone far beyond what the team could have ever imagined. At a Fort Wayne, Ind., hospital, "hope" bands are given to mothers of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The HU team who traveled to India last year wore "Love India" bands as a way to build camaraderie. And the MudLOVE staff tells the story of a woman, choking back tears, who purchased "strength" bands for the people in her life who are supporting her through her breast cancer.

"I see these love bands in random places, and it touches me how you are touching others," said Margi Roush, HU alumni director and daughter-in-law of Ed and Polly Roush. "It gives twice and beyond."

Wright makes sure that everything that the company does is glorifying to God, but he hopes that he is honoring his grandparent's legacy, as well.

"I think everyone who works here could say something about Ed or Polly," Garberson said. "I think everyone has a connection now."

And today, outside the garage door of where it all began, is a kiln with the words "Polly 2010" etched into the cement. It's a constant reminder of where they have been and the legacy they have to uphold.