The Joy Project: Nicole + Sylvia

April 17, 2019

For Nicole Bopp, and her mom, Sylvia Nelson, pretty much every day is a holiday. Sylvia, an only child, born in Nebraska and who converted to Judaism as an adult, promised her parents she would continue to celebrate all the holidays she was raised with. Her now grown children have continued to do the same.



Nicole and Sylvia show me their beautiful antique tea cup and saucer collection. Sylvia explains that she started collecting them at 6 or 7 years old was allowed to pick one as a souvenir on her childhood travels.



Each tiny porcelain cup is so finely decorated with gold trim or an intricate floral pattern. Sylvia’s favorites are the ones with images from her vacation destinations.



Now, the family brings out these delicate heirlooms for their many celebrations. Nicole says, “We have a big, blended family. We celebrate everything. Every holiday is a big deal. That way no one feels left out.”



In addition to Sylvia’s childhood tea cup collection, she started making cloth napkins at a young age. She estimates she’s made hundreds at this point. The family has cloth napkins of every color and theme and, obviously, for every holiday. Nicole shows off some sushi-themed napkins covered with rolls and sashimi and fondly recalls having been the only kid to go away to college with a collection of cloth napkins.



Nicole and her mother have a lifetime of history together. Nicole was an only child for several years before her siblings came along and recalls many childhood memories with her mom. The women are so close that it was Nicole who Sylvia wanted by her side when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. Sylvia says, “I had 3 kinds of cancer and had to go through chemotherapy and radiation. It was 16 weeks, 8 hours a day. I wanted Nikki there with me.”



Nicole remembers how she would pack lunches for the all day event. “We would go through catalogs and order fall clothes.” Sylvia starts laughing and says that she had “chemo brain,” and all of these boxes of clothes would show up weeks later and she would have no memory of ordering them. Nicole says, “My dad didn’t understand why we were always laughing. But if you can’t find humor and try to laugh your way through it, you’re not going to get through it.” Nicole recalls a time she put Sylvia’s wig on her dog. Her father didn’t see the humor in it but Nicole can’t tell the story without cracking up both herself and Sylvia.



This is the first year Nicole is participating in The Joy Project. She says, “I’m close with my mom the way Elanah is with Joy. I love the program and I come from a family of strong women. I’m going to send tributes to my family and all of my friends. I will be sending them to my girlfriends who couldn’t have children or chose not to. And my friends who are dog moms.” Sylvia agrees, “I love the idea of women helping women.”



Nicole explains she comes from a very philanthropic family and the spirit of tzedakah is a major vein running through the generations of her family. “Our family has a family foundation that awards scholarships in the arts,” she says. Whether its fundraising for breast cancer research or supporting the city of Detroit, Nicole proudly backs many different causes with a passion. The Joy Project is now one of those.



Sylvia was born in Nebraska and is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She can trace her ancestry all the way back to the 1700’s, when her relatives traveled in covered wagons traded food for beaded moccasins (which she still has today). While we talk a lot about Sylvia’s incredible family history, Nicole makes sure to note that her father’s is equally rich. His father before him was a survivor and was sent to America on a boat at 7-years-old to live with family he had never met. After talking with Nicole and Sylvia about their amazing history and their lifetimes of giving, it’s easy to imagine why they would find any excuse to celebrate.



Read more information about the history of The Joy Project here.

To send a tribute to the special women in your life, visit here.