The final resting place of Maleah Davis has been made to encapsulate the cheerful whimsy the Texas 4-year-old delighted in, as the little girl will be buried in a casket adorned with artwork from “My Little Pony.”
The custom design is the work of Trey Ganem’s SoulShine Industries, which received a flood of requests from strangers familiar with Maleah’s tragic death to create a casket representative of her spirit and innocence.
“My passion purpose is to help others, and I couldn’t fathom [her death],” Ganem said. “I have kids, they’re grown now, and my heart hurt; I just wanted to do what I could to help the family.”
Maleah was last seen alive April 30 entering the apartment complex she lived in with her mother and mother’s fiance at the time, Derion Vence.
Days later, Vence claimed to have been attacked by three men who abducted Maleah, but investigators said his story did not add up. Vence was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, though he denies killing her.
About a month after she vanished, Maleah’s remains were found in a black garbage bag near a freeway outside of the town of Hope, Arkansas on May 31.
“She touched the lives of many; our shining, beautiful little girl, the light of our lives and the star of our hearts who leaves us smiling through our tears,” Maleah’s obituary read. “She was happiness personified.”
“She loved Rainbow Dash,” Ganem said the family told him, referencing one of the main characters on the children’s show. “That kind of steered us in the direction we went with.”
Ganem’s team set out to make Maleah’s casket as beautiful as possible and spent about 12 hours working on the design and execution.
Photos of the casket showed it was covered by artwork from the cartoon. The top of the casket shows a smiling Maleah riding atop Rainbow Dash among clouds, while a rainbow shines above. Its sides are adorned with other characters from the show, and Maleah’s full name — Maleah Lynn Davis — is displayed in bright letters. Inside, the casket is upholstered with rainbow fabric and more images from the show.
The gravity of the work was not lost on Ganem’s team, all of whom felt personally invested in seeing that the finished casket succeed in representing Maleah’s spirit.
“It was very emotional,” Ganem said. “They were crying up there, working on stuff. You could hear it in everybody’s voice; this was just something super, super special. This one really grabbed us.”
Two members of Ganem’s team delivered the casket to Maleah’s father, Craig Davis, who went on to post an image of it on Instagram.
“They loved it,” Ganem said of Maleah’s family. “They were giving hugs and were just so appreciative, just so happy they were going to be able to lay this beautiful baby to rest in this … it was an honor.”
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Ganem founded SoulShine Industries 26 years ago after a friend’s passing left him wondering why a loved one’s final resting place oftentimes was so impersonal. The Texas-based company has since become his passion.
“It was so much more than wanting to do caskets … when [people] look at the caskets that are created by us … they will stand in front of a casket for 30 minutes to an hour, telling stories about their loved ones,” Ganem said. “It’s so beautiful. It goes from a dark time to the light starting to come in. This is the healing process.”
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