Jewelry helps underwrite foundation

Friday, June 29, 2007
Photos by Beth Leftwich Bubba Griffin enjoys a moment with son Brody, 4, near the family pool one recent afternoon. Griffin notes that Brody is becoming very affectionate and enjoys giving out hugs and kisses.

Bubba Griffin has found a hobby he's good at and enjoys, as well as one that benefits a foundation that's near and dear to his family.

Since November, Griffin has been creating unique pieces of jewelry to raise money for the Fragile X Association of Tennessee. It helps increase awareness about the genetic condition and make resources available to families affected by the condition.

Bubba and wife, Wendy, proprietor of the salon CW Cuts, adopted three children from Guatemala several years ago and the siblings (who are not blood related) are all 4 years old now. Ian was adopted in 2003; daughter Atlee and their other son, Brody, in 2004.

The Griffins were told that Brody probably had autism and when he arrived home in the United States they took him to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for tests. Doctors there diagnosed him with Fragile X syndrome.

"That's when it all started," Griffin says.

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common cause of inherited mental impairment. It can range from learning disabilities to more severe cognitive or intellectual disabilities. FXS is the most common known cause of autism or "autistic-like" behaviors. Symptoms also can include characteristic physical and behavioral features and delays in speech and language development.

Next Tuesday, there is a meeting at Vanderbilt's hospital where about a dozen doctors are working to get a FX clinic started. The Griffins have been invited to the meeting.

"It would be nice if we could get something closer," noted Griffin, who says the family now travels to Atlanta to see Brody's FX specialists.

"Bubba's Beads" took off this past fall after Griffin saw the beautiful charm earrings his mother-in-law Sandra Forbes was making at her home and he commented on them, saying "those are kinda' neat."

"She told me, 'why don't you try to make a pair?' and so I picked out a few a beads and made Wendy a pair and she really liked them," he said with a smile.

Since that pair of earrings went over well, the Griffins got to thinking about making more jewelry to sell as a fundraiser for the foundation but wondered if Sandra might get mad since she was already donating her profits.

She didn't mind at all, so the Bubba and Wendy bought some supplies and spent two nights creating about 40 pairs of earrings and were fortunate to sell $180 worth of jewelry at the salon the first week.

"We thought maybe we were onto something," commented Griffin, "so we started buying more stuff and then eventually invested in more expensive beads, gemstones, sterling silver and pearls."

Wendy also stepped aside from making the jewelry and has left in the very capable hands of her husband, who gets lots of advice and suggestion from the stylists at the salon, as well as customers.

"The best critics are the girls at the shop, they keep me on the trendy stuff and they also model the jewelry." he adds.

Griffin's day job is a troubleshooter for CKNA and he says he's never been "crafty" and can't explain how the jewelry-making came so easily to him. His tools include just a few pairs of pliers, cutters, and a crimper. He works in a small, very neat and organized office in the family's home on Collins Hollow Road, and says he usually spends about two hours late at night working on the pieces, after the kids have been put to bed.

Griffin does not sell his jewelry at craft fairs, nor plans to market it via the Internet, as he says he thinks the salon is the perfect place to display and sell his wares.

"If I get on the Internet I feel like I'd have to do it (piece) twice and every piece is unique," he says. "Every piece is an original."

All types of beads are incorporated and mixed and matched into the pieces and Griffin says he just starts laying out the beads on a felt board and plays around for inspiration. Glass, quartz, gemstones, and crystal beads in every color and shape are strung together, often in matching sets of earrings and necklaces.

While interviewing Griffin, squeals can be heard from the backyard as a family friend watches the children swimming in the family pool, and he comments how Brody is learning more sign language, is becoming more affectionate, and is interested in a lot of things other 4-year olds are.

"If you could unlock it, it would be awesome," he says of the Brody's non-verbal communication.

For now the Griffins will concentrate on promoting the Fragile X Association of Tennessee while enjoying time with their three very active 4-year olds.

For more information about Fragile X syndrome you may reach Bubba and Wendy Griffin at 359-1226 or visit If you are interested in Bubba's Beads you can call the Griffins or stop by CW Cuts to purchase the jewelry.