Strength in Mothers: The story of Sloan’s Scrunchies
Kari Harbath, CMO of Sloan’s Scrunchies, grew up with “the best childhood ever.” But her mother, Kim McCorkle-Harbath, prepared her for a life of twists and turns. Those turns included what Harbath describes as her “grief resume.” But she has somehow found the inner strength to reinvent herself after losing her mother and husband, run a booming business with her sister Kassie Harbath while working a full-time job and be a warrior mom to 3-year-old Sloan who was born with CHARGE syndrome — and is thriving beyond all expectations.
Kassie and Kari’s new-age mother was “the perfect balance of right there and not there,” Harbath says. “Kassie and I were homeschooled. Not in a fanatical religious way, but in a cool, screw conventional education, best childhood ever way. So Kassie and I have always been the best of friends, classmates, sisters, you name it.” Kim was always at the heart of it. When the girls went to a charter school and Kari was bullied, Kim yanked her out for a mental health break, and that was that.
In April 2019, after nine happy years of marriage and adventure, Sloan was born to Kari and Aaron Loftus in her “wild and emergent” way. An emergency cesarean section was performed, and after being intubated five times, Sloan finally took her first breath. Sloan was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome, a genetic mutation that causes life-threatening birth defects, swallowing and breathing problems, hearing and vision loss, among other complications, and requires multiple surgeries.
Just like in Harbath’s childhood, Kim was there for all of it. When Sloane contracted respiratory syncytial virus and was fighting for her life, Kari’s parents Kim and Paul stayed in the pediatric intensive care unit with Sloan. Kari and Aaron were sick and had to stay home.
“I cried, hugged my mom and told her she was the best mom and grandma in the entire world. She hugged me back and said she wouldn’t want her grandma experience any other way. She said she had the best two days with Sloan since her birth and loved being with Sloan alone in the hospital, spending quality time with her precious granddaughter,” Harbath recalled.
That was the last time she would ever see her mom. Kim died unexpectedly in her sleep a few days later. “I screamed at the top of my lungs,” Harbath said. “I didn’t know how to do life without Mom.”
Before Sloan was born, Kassie had mentioned to her mom that scrunchies were making a comeback. Soon, Kim was sewing up scrunchies and handing them out around the hospital and they were a hit. “So, when Mom died, the first thing Kassie did was grab Mom’s beloved sewing machine and bring it home to learn how to sew a scrunchie,” Harbath said.
To honor their mother, the sisters began selling Sloan’s Scrunchies at local markets with great success, donating half the proceeds to the Kim McCorkle-Harbath Memorial Scholarship, in honor of their mom, at Weber State every year.
Then in June 2020, Kari’s beloved husband and partner of 13 years passed away after fighting a hard, long and courageous fight with mental health. Kari was confident she was dying of heartbreak. Usually, Kim was the one who stepped up when there was need. But this time, it was Kassie.
Harbath said fondly, “I clearly remember Mom saying, years ago, that someday mine and Kassie’s relationship would come full circle and there would be times we really needed each other. … Mom was right, because the last two years have been one of those times we really needed each other.”
Kassie stepped up from the moment Sloan was born, learning how to tube-feed Sloan and take care of her daily medical needs so she could help. When Aaron died, Kassie moved in with Kari and quit her job for six months so Kari could get back on her feet.
They thought they were done with scrunchies for good without Aaron, but decided to give it one more try the summer of 2021. This time, they changed their image, getting “weird naked neon barbies and toys from Goodwill involved, and really amping up the swear words, because life is hard and too short,” Harbath says. “We are now more irreverent and authentically true to ourselves and our life experience than ever before … and we think mom is shaking her head and smirking at us somewhere in the great beyond.”
Today, Sloan has defied all the odds (and was quickly promoted to CEO of Sloan’s Scrunchies by her mom and aunt). She’s beat COVID, eats by mouth and is learning to communicate through adapted tactile sign language and body language.
Harbath says there is a depth to Sloan that people may not see because they are so focused on how she is different or how they can validate their own discomfort with disabilities upon first meeting her. “Yes, she is deafblind. Yes, Primary Children’s is our second home. And yes, she loves cake pops and swimming more than any kid I know.” And, as Kassie and Kari like to call her, she’s a BAMF.
As for Harbath, she continues to forge ahead with the support of her family, especially Kassie: “As time has gone on, I’ve realized I can keep going — it just won’t ever be the same. I will always hurt. But I now appreciate the identity I have and how I somehow made it to today.”
The sisters continue to raise money for a WSU scholarship in their mother’s name. They’re also currently hosting a month-long virtual 5K. You can go at your own pace, post on social media and collect a Sloan-inspired unicorn metal. Registration is now open via Kari and Sloan’s website at sloanstrength.com/5k/.
Sloan’s Scrunchies will be at the Ogden Marathon Expo on May 20 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the May Indie Ogden Bizarre event on May 15. Follow them on social media to keep up with Kari, Kassie, and the baddest of all BAMFs, Sloan.
Follow their story at sloanstrength.com and Instagram (@sloan_strength_).
Shop Sloan’s Scrunchies on Instagram (@sloans_scrunchies) and Facebook (sloansscrunchies).