Allison Yacht’s daughter Meredith was about to start kindergarten, but there was something in the way: she refused to leave the house. After being diagnosed with cancer at five years old, Meredith’s treatment caused her to lose her hair and with it, she began to lose her self-confidence. She didn’t want to go outside anymore.
“As a mom, that was especially hard to see,” says Allison. “She used to be this outgoing little kid.”
For the Yacht family, business is personal. When Meredith was first diagnosed, their whole world turned upside down. As Meredith progressed through treatment, her family was inspired by how brave and strong she truly was. She endured needles and fatigue and burns from the radiation with hardly a complaint. But her hair loss? That was harder for Meredith to endure. Her self-consciousness was hard to shake.
Wigs proved too itchy, hats were too warm and scarves just didn’t fit quite right. Finally, they found a lightweight hoodie that fit and suddenly Meredith felt comfortable again. And, so deeply important to her young heart, she felt like a normal kid again.
After Meredith completed her cancer treatment, Allison went to an embroidery shop and had “Cancer Survivor” embroidered on Meredith’s hoodie — this was a lightbulb moment for Allison. She realized they could create hoodies for other children and families going through the same thing and decorate them with inspiring logos and sayings to lift their spirits.
BraveHoods started out nice and slow in 2013. It has grown into a non-profit that has given away 7,200 shirts.
“We also sell shirts online and for each shirt sold we donate one,” says Allison. “So far we have given away 7,200 shirts.”
Over 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States. Add on parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and others, and the number of individuals affected grows exponentially.
Hoodies get distributed two different ways. BraveHoods ships boxes of 30 shirts to hospitals and asks the teams there to hand them out to children receiving treatment as well as their siblings. The second way is that families anywhere can sign up online and request a shirt.
“We always say ‘Please, let us know if this doesn’t fit your child or if you have other children at home! We want to make sure everyone feels included,’” says Allison.
While BraveHoods collaborates remotely with the staff of hospitals across the country, there is one day each year when the team gets to connect with the hoodie recipients a little more personally.
“We go to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and we get to sit at a table and hand them out,” she says. “That, to me, is the best day of my year. We have kids who come up and say ‘This is great, I just grew out of my old one from camp last year!’ They know we are going to be there and they know what color shirt they want.”
Meredith is cancer-free and doing great, living life as a healthy, spunky and joyful little girl. Allison and her family came out of the experience embracing the knowledge that within so much hardship there is a lot of good.
BraveHoods will continue to be part of the community spreading hope for as long as they need. To learn more and to request (or donate!) a hoodie, visit BraveHoods.org.