Whimsicals Paperie is a company all about connection, joy, and beauty in the everyday. As a woman-owned and family-run business, we want to not only share about the company, but also share personal stories that share those values. This is a story told by Selah (pronounced Say-luh), Sarah's teen daughter and Whimsicals Paperie's main packaging maven. If you have received any of our products, there is a good chance it's been assembled and/or packaged by Selah.
On the week of October 9th, 2022, early Tuesday morning, my mom, dad, and I set out to the airport. We drove our metallic-blue SUV for an hour, all the while joking and talking. Now and then, we would each gaze out the window and contemplate how we got here.
I was born with a one-in-a-million disorder called VACTERL, where each letter in the acronym stands for a potential anatomical complication. In my case, I was born with five out of seven letters, causing my first year to be spent in the hospital, and every year after has been riddled with medical issues that are fixed either through invasive surgeries or intense bouts of medical practitioners analyzing me and my symptoms to provide successful treatment. My life has never been easy, but once my family and I found out that Make-A-Wish is not exclusively for terminally ill children, we knew that it would provide an element of meaning to my trauma.
After nearly 14 years of a life spent experiencing things many will never experience, and over 2 years of waiting to experience something that no one else has experienced, we were on our way to Seattle, Washington. We flew from the Denver International Airport to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, courtesy of Southwest, and were picked up by a private driver to bring us to an upper-class mall district, Bellevue. We ate exquisite seafood, overlooked the city from 600 feet above the ground on the Space Needle, witnessed the glass artwork of the creative genius Chihuly, learned about and viewed dozens of animal species at the Woodland Park Zoo, and visited other, smaller tourist attractions, such as the Gum Wall and Fisherman’s Wharf. While all these activities could constitute an entire trip of their own, we were not here specifically for them.
On October 13th, the day after arriving on the west coast, I woke up a full hour earlier than needed, my body coursing with adrenaline. It was finally time, what felt like my entire medical life so far was building up to reach an epic climax. I idly distracted myself until it was time to go, barely able to control my nerves. After restlessly eating breakfast, my family and I rushed out of the restaurant and into the lobby, where we were going to meet another Make-A-Wish kid that would be joining us, along with his family and the coordinator of our trip. Being shy around strangers, I was shocked when I hit it off instantly with my new friend Jackson, who knew everything and more relating to the subject of our wish: Pokemon.
Our small group made its way down the noisy city block, Jackson in his wheelchair, me walking by him so we could talk about all our favorite things, such as Dungeons & Dragons, Jurassic World, Marvel, The Good Place, and, of course, Pokemon. After around 15 minutes of excited chatter, we reached a massive office building that didn’t look any more different or exciting than what you would expect of a financial or real estate establishment. Slightly confused about what we were walking into, we found our way to the elevators and pressed the button that would bring us to our wish.
While we didn’t completely know what was going to happen, we knew what we asked for: to visit one of the four Pokemon International Headquarters in the world. I had asked for two other wishes before this one, each wish was shot down by COVID-19 regulations. Secretly, I was extremely nervous that whatever would happen inside the corporate building was going to be nothing compared to what my other wishes would have been like if they had come true. Ultimately, I was dead wrong.
Image credit - Dorian Kelley
The elevator doors opened, and we stepped out into a reception area. Each elevator door leading to other floors had different Pokemon engraved on them, and there were four life-sized statues of the original starter Pokemon: Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, and Pikachu. Two employees in Pokemon visors approached us, and we each got to choose one of three Pokemon visors based on the upcoming video game releasing in November. We then were led into a different elevator than the one we came up in, and after a short ride down we walked into a long hallway where I was distracted by detailed Pokemon artwork on the wall before hearing Jackson gasp and say: “Selah, look!”
The employees we met in the reception area, Paul and Nicoletta, had us follow them into a room with fogged-over windows. As soon as we walked in, Jackson, me, and our families gasped, because in the room was a birthday party, curated specifically for Jackson and me.
Out of pure luck, Jackson and I were born during the same week, one year apart. We both chose to go to the Pokemon Center on the week of our birthdays, and we didn’t know that Pokemon knew this.
There were four rows of tables, two against the walls, and two in the center. On the opposite walls by the two tables furthest apart from each other were balloons with Jackson and I’s names spelled out, and on top of the tables were dozens of items of merchandise hand-picked for us. I ran over to the table and began to look through everything. Plushies, building sets, trading card packs, gaming gear, and figurines lined my table, as they did on Jackson’s side of the room. After our families settled around the tables in the center, Paul brought each adult an NDA contract prohibiting us from disclosing any important details of the information we were about to learn. Then, they dimmed the lights and the heads of each department in the company came in.
We first learned about the entire process of making Pokemon figurines, and many of the tidbits of information we learned specifically applied to the surprise figurines they gave us before leaving. After they left, a group of people who oversee trading card production came in, and we got to watch a video that no civilian had before: a video on how they make Pokemon cards. After the presentation, we got to see in-person examples of card formats shown in the video, and once Jackson and I finished inspecting every last detail, they pulled out two massive boxes for each of us, collectors kits that were filled with promotion cards, pins, and trinkets. This pattern went on and on, we learned about how Pokemon is named, how every single line of flavor text that comes from the headquarters in Japan is carefully translated, and how packaging and textures are designed. Each group would give us products relating to their presentation, adding more meaning to what we were learning and being given.
By the time the presentations were done, it was lunchtime, and we went into a lobby to eat. Being gluten and dairy-free, I was shocked to find that half of the food available to our families was safe for me to eat, as I am used to having fewer options than most of what to eat at events. There was a chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, chicken sandwiches, cupcakes, brownie bites, salad, fruit, chips, and more. After filling up, we went back into the presentation room one last time, where we picked out what merchandise we would like to bring home with us, and what we would like to have shipped to our houses. As our time at the Pokemon Company International Headquarters reached an end, we were surprised by meeting two last people before we left: Kenji and Amelia.
Kenji was no other than Kenji Okubo, the president of the entire Pokemon Company. He said that he just couldn’t miss out on our party, and I ecstatically took a selfie with him, starstruck that I was meeting the person at the very top of one of my favorite brands. After I chatted with him for a few minutes, Amelia approached my family, and she told us something I will never forget: she, at my age, was a Make-A-Wish kid, and she chose to visit the Pokemon Company too. Now, years later, she works at her dream job with others who are just as passionate about Pokemon as she is. She said that if I wanted to, she could see me working with them when I grow older, and this made my world. She went through a similar experience as me, and here was proof that everything can turn out well in the end, no matter how difficult the journey was to get there. I will be okay, and my future ahead of me is looking bright, knowing that if I want to, I can become a person who I respect so much now, a member of Pokemon.
Image credit - Abby Tang