Meet Allison Yacht of BraveHoods
The BraveHoods’ story doesn’t start in a happy place. But, it brought us to one.
It was 2011 and our five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of sarcoma. Unimaginable, as you might imagine.
I dropped everything. I closed my database consulting practice and focused on Meredith’s treatment and recovery. For 12 grueling months, our brave little girl endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments and all the beyond unpleasant and painful side effects. But, shy, sweet Merry was brave. She was courageous and positive.
She put up with so much, all with a sunny attitude and hardly a complaint. But, there was ONE thing that DID bother her, even more than the needles and the fatigue and the burns from the radiation. The thing that bothered her the most was the loss of her hair. She felt very self-conscious. She was stared at by kids and adults alike. For a shy little girl like Merry, this was very difficult to face each day. For her parents, it was heartbreaking to watch and it was getting in the way of her participating in day-to-day activities.
We tried wigs (too itchy!). We tried hats (too hot!). We tried scarves (didn’t fit right!). But nothing worked, in fact she felt like these options drew more attention to her. Finally, after much searching, we happened upon hoodies! They were the PERFECT solution! They protected her head from the sun, kept her warm, and most importantly, allowed her to be the “regular kid” she so desperately wanted to be.
As we moved along in our journey, we met many other kids battling cancer and their families. We got to know each other well, even though the circumstances were out of the ordinary. We learned that cancer is a “family affair.”
We also quickly realized that Merry was NOT the only kid who felt self-conscious and that the struggle to find appropriate headwear was quite real and quite frustrating.
And, it turns out we were all also looking for something more.
In addition to looking for a fashion-forward, on-trend, and comfortable way to cover their heads – which we found in hoodies – we were all looking for inspiration, for a way to support and empower these brave kids. And, THAT thought was the inspiration for BraveHoods and for the words of inspiration emblazoned on all of our hoodies. The messages of hope and courage are a constant reminder – to the wearer and to families and friends – to live with hope and optimism.
And, another surprising BraveHoods benefit emerged. We designed BraveHoods to send positive energy and spirit to someone going through tough times and to allow family and friends to surround a child with love, caring, and support. What we learned is that siblings – who sometimes feel helpless or left out – also loved and gained strength from wearing the hoodies and from the empowering quotes. This even worked for parents, grandparents, friends, and schoolmates.
The hoodies started as simple headwear, but we quickly realized that they had the power to foster a “support team” spirit.
Today, Meredith is a healthy, spunky, and joyful little girl. She is cancer free and doing great! And, BraveHoods is thriving. Our Get One/Give One program has shipped hoodies all over the globe. We have delivered hoodies – and their messages of hope and resilience – to children and families in hospitals and clinics across the U.S. And, we’re not going to stop.
BraveHoods has always been a labor of love and we have had to get through some struggles. First and foremost, while I came from a business background, I had no idea how the apparel business worked, so we had quite the learning curve.
Additionally, we must have been ahead of our time because when we started, it was quite difficult to find the kind of shirt we wanted. Luckily, the industry caught up to us and now we have several options to chose from.
Thirdly, I knew working in the pediatric cancer world would not be easy, but to be very honest, I didn’t know how hard it would be. This is an incredibly hopeful community, but as you can imagine, there are some hard days.
BraveHoods sells cool t-shirt and hoodies – for each one sold, one is donated to a kiddo fighting cancer. We have been able to gift over 7,000 BraveHoods to kids all over the country. Hoodies are cool, but they have a special use for kids with cancer.
We are most proud of the fact that we have been able to bridge people who want to help with people who need the help. Our shirts are awesome on their own, but BraveHoods are extra special because not only do our customers get a cool, inspirational shirt, they know they are making a difference to a kid who could use some hope and comfort.
We also know that cancer affects the whole family, and as part of our mission, we gift to siblings. It is important that they know they are part of the team and there is no better way to feel part of a team than to wear the same shirt.
We define success in many ways. First, we look at how many shirts we have been able to donate thanks to our supporters. We love to hear from parents that their child has grown out of their shirt and need another. We love hearing stories how our shirts have made a difference to kids and their self-confidence.
Second, we look at our sales because a lot of our donations are based on our sales. We love to sell, but we love to see the smiles on faces wearing our shirts.
Finally, we look forward to closing up shop because there is a cure for cancer. Current cancer treatments, especially for kids are very difficult and the sooner we find a cure, the sooner we will be obsolete. We look forward to that day, in the meantime, we will be selling and gifting BraveHoods.