LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDKY-TV)– A Louisville office sends out more than a hundred packages each week, and the senders hope every on them gets sent back. Here, returns are a good thing.
“The things that come in the mail, the stories, the feedback, is what motivates you to want to come to work every day and do better,” said Cari Teff, partnership coordinator for Hope Scarves.
The organization was founded in 2012 by Lara MacGregor, who, at age 31 and seven-months pregnant, learned she had breast cancer.
“A friend of a friend named Kelly gave me a box of scarves and a note that said ‘You can do this,'” Lara said. “I wore Kelly’s scarves throughout my treatment and each time I wore them, I felt her love and encouragement.”
When Lara’s treatment ended, she tried to return the scarves, but Kelly told her to pass them on to someone else who was facing cancer. And that was the start of this project that has now sent more than 16,000 scarves to cancer patients in all 50 states and 27 countries.
The office is full is scarves in all shapes, sizes and colors, and before one goes out, it is tagged for tracking and packaged with a story of encouragement from the survivor who wore it before.
“As the momentum grew for our mission, we started referring to this network of support and love as the ‘sisterhood of the traveling scarves,’ Lara said. “Some of the scarves have already traveled to four different places around the country.”
“Basically, I kind of hoped if someone was diagnosed with cancer, you’d think ‘OK, you set up a meal train and you send a Hope Scarf’– that we’d be that synonymous with how you support someone with cancer.”
It’s not just about providing scarves. This organization also raises a lot of money for research– more than a million dollars so far. Hope Scarves are not just available through the mail. The group has partnered with more than 40 hospitals and clinics to distribute scarves and letters of encouragement directly to patients.
Hope is not just a word for Lara. It’s what she hangs onto, now that her cancer is back and has spread to her bones.
“I live with a terminal illness and immense uncertainty and fear,” she said. ” I’ve learned how to hold both fear and joy in the same hand at the same time.”
So, the organization she founded to help others is helping her, too, giving her something positive to focus on. As she says, something as simple as a scarf can add light to darkness, and ties that bind.
“And we hope each time someone wears (one of our scarves) or holds it, they feel the support of thousands of women who have faced cancer.”
Lara also has a blog called “A Hopeful Life,” and she’s working on a book.