After her five-year-old daughter Meredith endured 12 months of radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer, Allison Yacht of Longmont took one of “Merry’s” favorite hoodies to an embroiderer. She asked that a simple heart be stitched to the shirt, along with one word: Survivor.
The embroidered shirt marked the triumphant end of a challenging era for the Yacht family. But it was just the beginning of a new family business that would benefit other kids with cancer.
In March of 2013, a year after Merry finished her last cancer treatment, the family founded BraveHoods, a nonprofit apparel company featuring shirts with positive messages. For every shirt sold, BraveHoods donates a shirt to a child with cancer.
“We spent a year recovering [after treatment] and thinking about how we would make this all work,” remembers Allison. “[Planning the business] kept the whole family going. It was something cancer-related, but not cancer.”
BraveHoods’ first product was a hoodie, for a specific reason: When Merry lost her hair due to chemotherapy, she found that wigs were too itchy, hats were too hot, and scarves didn’t fit quite right. With nothing on her head, Merry didn’t like it when people stared and often mistook her for a boy. “[Hoodies] were life changing and made a huge difference for us,” Allison says. “With a hoodie on, people would look, but only for a second. She felt comfortable participating in things again. I couldn’t do anything about her physical well-being, but when it came to her mental well-being, this we could figure out.”
Now, BraveHoods works with hospital staff and nonprofit organizations, such as Ronald McDonald House and Brent’s Place, to give hoodies to kids with cancer, as well as to their siblings. They also work with the student leadership team at Silver Creek High School in Longmont to package shirts with a sticker and letter from the organization. Parents of children with cancer can contact BraveHoods directly and fill out a form to receive a hoodie, too. To date, BraveHoods has donated more than 4,000 hoodies.
“Parents send us pictures of their kids wearing our shirts, and you can see their smiles,” Allison says. “I think feeling comfortable makes you feel better.”
How Families Can Help
- Shop for hoodies, T-shirts, and zip-front sweatshirts with empowering messages on the BraveHoods website, so more hoodies can be donated to kids with cancer and their siblings.
- Listen to BraveHoods’ podcast, The More Than 4 Cast, featuring positive stories from the cancer community. According to Allison, the name comes from the fact that less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is dedicated to pediatric cancer.
- Volunteer. Currently, BraveHoods is looking for a couple of long-term volunteers whom Allison can train to take care of specific jobs in their Longmont office. Schedule is flexible.
- Participate in cancer fundraising run/walk events. BraveHoods sells apparel or provides information at a variety of area races.