At the start of 2011, an Ahwatukee Foothills woman invited the world to join her on a motivational journey through her blog.
Since then, Arizona State University senior Ashley LeMieux has used her optimistic attitude to impact more people than she had imagined. Starting The Shine Project was just the beginning of something big for LeMieux, 24.
She made a unique resolution in January - one that would benefit others before herself. LeMieux thought of a word that would help her achieve that: Shine. She vowed to shine in every aspect of her life in an effort to "rub off on others who could use a little more light in their lives."
"I'm obsessed with writing and helping other people," LeMieux said. "I am a really creative person and I like being able to come up with new things."
Making her own "shine" necklaces was just the first of many ideas she had. The necklaces can be purchased for $11 on her blog.
A couple weeks into the project, LeMieux visited a widow and brought her a "shine" necklace. The joy the woman expressed during the simple visit sparked the idea to expand The Shine Project, LeMieux said.
"You can't reach out to other people if you keep to yourself," she explained.
LeMieux assigns weekly challenges to her Shine Project followers. Past challenges have included writing thank you letters to influential teachers and cheering for your enemies.
The Shine Project's recent challenge was a major step in the direction LeMieux is striving toward.
"Instead of the usual ‘Go Meet Your Neighbor' challenges, I wanted something where all of my readers could come together for one cause," LeMieux said.
The cause was a 20-year-old woman, Michelle, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer at the end of last year.
The Shine Project auctioned off a necklace that went for $75 and LeMieux's 700-plus followers made a combined effort to donate a generous amount of money to Michelle.
"That was one of the biggest things that made me realize where The Shine Project has potential," LeMieux said. "And that was being able to help people."
A Shine Project follower from Vancouver, B.C., commented on the group challenge: "Oh Ashley, you are doing such a good thing with this project. You are a dear person and shine light on me and so many others."
On average, the blog is viewed 1,500 to 2,000 times each day, LeMieux said.
The project's rapid growth comes from being featured on bigger blogs and websites, LeMieux said. With an international fan base growing at this rate, she is on a good track to meet her goals.
"My most immediate goal is to be able to give a scholarship away in January," LeMieux said, adding that she also would like to start an annual 6K run to contribute to the scholarship fund.
The Shine Project Scholarship will be awarded to an inner-city school student for their college education. One dollar from each "shine" necklace will go toward the fund, she said.
LeMieux, an English and creative writing major, is considering turning the project into a book so that readers have a more tangible form of inspiration.
"I want to have a source for people to go to when they just need ideas of how to feel better about themselves in life," she said.
LeMieux draws much of her inspiration from her family.
"It's really easy to come home to such a supportive atmosphere," she said of her husband. The two just recently celebrated their one-year anniversary.
LeMieux's faith also plays a role in her positive life outlook and her efforts to bring happiness to others.
During her year-and-a-half church mission in Kentucky, she met a group of women that will serve as the basis of a fiction novel she is writing.
The group, called The Honor Bright Society, "was the most fascinating and hysterical thing I've ever come across in my life," LeMieux said.
"‘You guys need a book,'" she told them. "I've always wanted to write (a book) and then I was like, this is it!"
LeMieux's goal is to finish the book, titled after the group, by the end of this year.
Erin Sullivan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.