By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Jennifer Krienert just wants her son, Rory, to feel comfortable. He is medically required to wear an eyepatch twice a day until he’s 9 years old to treat a condition like lazy eye.
“He may look different, but he’s truly the same as every other child,” said Krienert, a Chandler resident, who formerly lived in Gilbert. “It’s why we’ve made it our mission to help every person embrace what makes them unique. After all, the things that make us different are exactly what make us awesome.”
To complete her mission, she started the small clothing line called Rock Your Different, with a portion of the proceeds going to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Rock Your Different helps families put a positive spin on things that make them unique.
“I had this idea because Rory hated wearing his patch, but he loved seeing anything with patches, like pirates,” said Krienert, a Wisconsin native who earned a degree in social work from Iowa State University. “He thinks it’s the coolest thing. I thought I would make a hat with a cute patch on it. I was literally going to make one hat.”
Instead, she expanded that notion and her website sells hats, tank tops and T-shirts with various designs promoting the Rock Your Different slogan. The site, rockyourdifferent.com, which was launched about three months ago, has sold nearly 300 shirts.
Rory was diagnosed with a benign tumor in his eye just after turning age 1 and subsequently had surgery at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
“It was so scary when we first went to the doctor,” said Krienert, who along with husband Keith, has two daughters, Nicolette and Taylor.
“We thought he would just need glasses or patch—an easy fix. But the doctors found the tumor. It was so unexpected. He has to go to a retina specialist every three months now.”
The most satisfying part of starting Rock Your Different, Krienert said, is seeing strangers purchase her clothing.
“The coolest thing, too, is seeing random people tag me on social media,” she added. “I expect friends and family to purchase things. I get orders from Wisconsin, which is my home state, but I still don’t know who they are.”
She said the clothing makes Rory feel better, as does a little routine that he does with his mom.
“We always fist pump when he puts his eyepatch on,” she said.
Going forward, she’s hoping to release a line to T-shirts meant to encourage kids and families dealing with type 1 diabetes.
“I think it’s cool to be different,” she added. “I don’t want kids to be ashamed because they’re different. The mama bear came out with this. I don’t want anyone to make fun of them because they’re different. We’re celebrating the differences.”