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Meet the Founder

Elizabeth O'Donnell

Founder & CEO of Aaliyah in Action

Elizabeth, or as most know her, Liz, is originally from New Jersey but has been living in Washington, D.C. since attending college at The George Washington University. After receiving her masters in elementary education, Liz was a dedicated math and science public school teacher for 7 years.  

The death of her first child, Aaliyah, sparked many changes in Liz's life and has led her down a new path in life. After a very public battle with the school system over her right to paid family leave, Liz was able to push for the D.C. Council to pass an emergency bereavement bill, allowing up to 2 weeks paid leave for parents who have experienced a stillbirth.

After the loss of Aaliyah, and Liz's subsequent treatment from her employer, she received hundreds of messages from other mothers and families who have traveled down a similar path of loss. In the days following the return home from the hospital, Liz, known as the "spa girl" among friends and family, received numerous self-care items. She tried to use one thing each day, which felt like an "accomplishment" during a time of such intense grief and self doubt. After reading and responding to as many messages as she could, Liz knew she needed to make a legacy for her daughter, Aaliyah, by helping others going through the same grief.  

Rather than going the support group route, since there are so many other organizations doing an incredible job in that space, Liz decided to take the role self care has played in her healing journey and extend it to others.  

When Liz & Aaliyah's father left the hospital, they left with a memory box neither of them could open. While it was a lovely gesture, it was also a terrible reminder they were leaving the hospital with only a box that held their daughters handprints, footprints, baby blanket and hat. The thought for self-care packages to be distributed to families while they were still in the hospital came naturally as Liz began to build Aaliyah in Action.

These self care packages are not meant to make any family "feel better" during this time - nothing besides holding your baby in your arms would make you feel that. Rather, the Aaliyah in Action self-care packages are meant to serve as a gentle hug from someone who knows the pain and Liz hopes you can feel that hug each time you reach for your package.

Including small, local, women & black owned businesses in the curation of these packages was a key element. Sourcing our self-care items from these businesses is a reflection of who Aaliyah would have been in this world and how she would give back to her community. 

Nothing about this journey has been easy, but seeing that this how Liz parents her daughter, she is looking forward to the national growth of Aaliyah in Action. When announcing the passing of Aaliyah on her Instagram, Liz said, "I firmly believe our Aaliyah Denise was too perfect and would've been too powerful for this world." She thinks about this statement she made every day when she sits down to her laptop to tackle the day's Aaliyah in Action to do list - for with the amount of growth Aaliyah in Action has seen since its launch, it's already proving to be true. 

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Meet the AiA Team: Meet the Team
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