Staying active means everything to Victoria Arlen, who, at one point in her life, thought she may never be able to open her eyes again.
“I technically shouldn’t be alive period, let alone here talking with you and walking around,” the ESPN personality, 24, tells PEOPLE. “So being active, moving, allows me every single day to continue to defy the odds.”
In 2005, the world began to go dark for the then 11-year-old Arlen, who had been a healthy and athletic young girl leading up to her sudden illness. Within a few short months, she had fallen into a vegetative state and was eventually diagnosed with two extremely rare autoimmune diseases — Transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis — which caused inflammation in her brain and spinal cord.
Doctors had little hope for Arlen. However, four years later, she miraculously regained control of her eyes for the first time in four years and began her journey to fully regaining her cognitive and physical abilities.
Now, a decade since her recovery first began, the 24-year-old paralympian has partnered with Jockey to launch her own athleisure line in honor of her “second chance” at life.
“To have an activewear line is very symbolic to my life of how I continue to keep up the pace that I do, and being active and being mindful,” she tells PEOPLE. “I think everything I do is always trying to make the second chance that I’ve been given worthwhile.”
One of the pieces in her line pays homage to that first moment she regained control in 2009, making eye contact with her mom and blinking to let her know that she could hear her.
“There’s actually a shirt that says ‘blink,’ which pays tribute to my first thing I was able to do when I came out of my vegetative state. That was the first sign of hope,” she says of the shirt, adding, “all it takes is one blink to ignite hope.”
The entire collection, Arlen says, is meant to motivate others to overcome their own hardships, using one of the TV host’s favorite deserts as inspiration.
“We took the concept of a donut and decided to put the message behind it,” she explains.” Turn your struggles into sprinkles, because if you shift your perspective and just look at it as a bowl of sprinkles, you’re gonna think, ‘Well it’s not as scary.’ “
“So, it’s very symbolic to where I was five years ago, to where I am now,” the former Dancing with the Stars contestant adds.
Arlen’s hope is that “people from all walks of life “find a little sprinkle of joy in their life” through her new collection, which features an array of performance and leisurewear. Her favorite piece, she says, is the convertible cardigan.
“It’s like I’m giving you a hug constantly,” she tells PEOPLE. “I told my friends, I was like, ‘It’s like I’m just hugging you.’ “
Arlen’s entire, sprinkle-filled line is now available on Jockey’s website and at select stores.