By John K. Adams
In 2014 Ely Pouget received an email request for a prosthetic mermaid tail for Sara, a seven-year-old amputee who wanted to swim. No one ever tried to do that. Her mermaid tail company, The 2Tails, adapted their tail design, working with a prosthetics company—Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania—and sent it to the hopeful little girl.
Inspired, Pouget, her daughters and husband Andres Garreton founded The Mermaid Foundation, Inc., dedicated to providing real, swimmable mermaid tails and accessories for amputees and the differently-abled. Now everyone can enjoy the fun, freedom and magic of swimming as mermaids.
Any swimmer can use these comfortable tails for a unique swimming experience. Neutrally buoyant, they won’t sink or drag the swimmer down. They allow a natural swimming experience, like a real mermaid. And the tails are safe; as easily doffed as a wet bikini bottom.
The 2Tails’ “Spring into Summer Open House” is being held on Saturday, April 29th, 1pm-5pm, at 3410 W. Burbank Blvd. in Burbank. There will be a photo booth, door prizes, snacks and toys – essentially a party. Event proceeds will benefit The Mermaid Foundation, Inc.
Professional mers (mer-people) Jennifer Elizabeth (Sea Angel Jenn) and Jack Laflin (Merman Jax) will be there.
Pouget granted The Tolucan Times this exclusive interview.
Tell us about how The 2Tails got started.
This happened because my daughters wanted it to happen. These twin seven-year-olds wanted a mermaid tail. So we took a leg from a pair of sweatpants and attached a fluke cut from a yoga mat. We went to a hotel pool and people went crazy over it. When you’re a mermaid, everyone wants to talk to you.
Eight years later, using only eco-friendly, neutrally buoyant materials, shimmery, resilient fabric and quality American craftsmanship, The 2Tails offers the best monofin on the market. Each new style of tail is based on my daughter Catalina’s fanciful paintings.
What was it like to suddenly find yourself in business?
After that first response, we thought, ‘We could do this.’ We all took a sewing class, researched materials and worked in our kitchen. We now sell thousands of tails.
I would get calls from everywhere. One day a five-year-old called me, desperate for a tail. She said ‘I’ll give you five dollars, cash!’
And your daughters stayed involved?
The girls were always the force behind it. First came the tails. Then they created the award winning YouTube show The3Tails with their friend Marlena Lerner, with a following of thousands. Then came the movie which Andres directed and shot. That won an award at the International Family Film Festival. Now they started their designer swimwear company, Lumahai, which is getting floor space in other boutiques.
Running a business out of your kitchen became more than that?
Mermaid tails are so much more than a novelty pool toy. When we started, I didn’t know the tails would transform their lives. My daughters used these tails and I watched them become inspired, independent and imaginative; each has become a strong young woman and storyteller. These tails are tools for growth. The girls have been entrepreneurs for 10 years and are just starting college. They learned they can have an influence on the world.
So this has become a successful venture?
Your feelings about success are about what your values are. When you do something that’s ‘right,’ magical things start happening. Once you get over the fact that anything in life involves struggle, you can really get things done.
How did the Mermaid Foundation get started?
In 2014, a nurse at a hospital emailed me about her young patient. The little girl needed her feet amputated. She asked, “If my feet are gone, how will I swim?” The nurse, Kaitlyn Buzyn asked me about prosthetic mermaid tails and I jumped at the chance to contribute.
If it was just me, I would have no idea how to start a foundation. But together we each contributed what we could with that goal of bringing joy. All it does is bring joy to everyone involved.
And the people you helped?
The tails allow them to re-enter society on their own terms. It gives them such a boost. A wheelchair bound woman told me, “If people are going to stare at me when I get in the pool, I want them to have a good reason to stare.”
The mother of an autistic boy told me, “The only thing that can get my kid to communicate is when he’s in the water.”
There is a real need then?
Yes, there is a specific group of kids that we can help in a very tangible way. I always dreamed of helping the less fortunate and this was a perfect opportunity. The tails are very adaptable to prosthetics. We are always looking for more hospitals to work with.
Helping people isn’t that hard. It just takes a little effort. So what? I mean, I’m not going off to war. I just want to help people.
When I was a teen, I was involved with a program called the American Experience. When camping, we were to carry out everything we brought in, plus at least one extra piece of trash. That philosophy has stayed with me all this time. Imagine if everyone did that all the time? What if everyone who read this donated a dollar to Mermaid Foundation, Inc.? We could expand our program to more hospitals and touch so many people’s lives.
The Mermaid Foundation, Inc. consists of Ely Pouget, husband Andres Garreton, daughters Sofia, Natasha (who Ely credits as the strength and power behind the foundation), Catalina Garreton, Marlena Lerner, Jennifer Elizabeth and Jack Laflin (Jennifer and Jack are professional mers known as “Sea Angel Jenn” and “Merman Jax”).
Find the Mermaid Foundation, Inc. at MermaidFoundationInc.org. The 2Tails and Lumahai Swimwear are located at 3410 W. Burbank Blvd. in Burbank. Call (323) 848-2457 or visit The2Tails.com. Discounts are available for veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Lumahai Swimwear can be found at LumahaiSwimwear.com and on Instagram: @lumahaiswimwear.
John K. Adams is a writer and owner of Storyography – Video Memoir Services. Visit LifeStoryography.com to learn more. Adams believes everyone has a story to tell and his personal legacy videos allow clients to share those stories with future generations. Adams is also a member of the Association of Personal Historians.