Kathy Weaver and Laquita Fox Carter have a very personal mission to make life a little better for children with cancer.
Tell us a little about yourself
My husband and I live in a small community in Northern Ohio with our goofy Irish Setter, RJ. We have two adult children and two beautiful grandkids.
Prior to finding polymer clay, I cross stitched like crazy as well as sewing and quilting. About 30 years ago, I walked past polymer clay in a craft store, and decided I wanted to try it. At that time there was very little internet, AOL by the minute. Fortunately, I was part of some of the original clay groups.
Tell us about Bracelets of Hope and your niece
I think everyone has someone they love affected by cancer. Fifteen years ago, my brother was losing his battle with pancreatic cancer, as my 14-month-old niece was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a particularly evil cancer, with little advancement in treatments. Our family tried to be there for Rosemarie for the entirety of her fight. Her treatments were at a hospital over an hour away, and we made many trips there. When they ran out of treatments for her, they saved her life by sending her to Cincinnati Children’s. Rosemarie is still a patient there.
As Rosemarie was fighting cancer, I wanted to do something to make a difference. I started making “cancer sucks” jewelry and was going to donate funds to childhood cancer research. That didn’t work because I was giving it all away to people at my shows. I had a picture of Rosemarie with “my oncologist does my hair” on my table and told her story thousands of times. I still wanted to find a way to make a difference. Child Life Services are trained professionals who help children and families deal with the mental aspects of children with serious illnesses
I started contacting hospitals, either Child Life Services, or volunteer services, and got a ‘person’ to deal with by email and started sending bracelets by myself. About 8/9 years ago I met Laquita Fox Carter at The Cave retreat in Kentucky, and we quickly became friends. Two years later she asked to be part of this program, and here we are. Laquita took it upon herself to come up with ideas of badges for boys. The badges became zipper pulls because of hospital regulations. No pins allowed!
Do you make all the beads for your bracelets and zipper pulls?
Laquita and I make many of our beads but are blessed with donations of beads and canes. Ivy Niles has been a significant donor. I can’t thank her enough for her contributions.
How many hospitals do you send bracelets to?
I mention that they send you an acknowledgement. Currently, we send to 15 hospitals. We send 50 bracelets and fifty zipper pulls (sometimes more) four times a year and at special holidays. For Christmas this year I made some little girl bracelets which will be an extra 10 bracelets, per hospital.
How many bracelets have you made as of the end of 2022?
In 2022 we will have sent 3,025 bracelets and 3,500 zipper pulls
How can you people support your project financially as you don’t charge any money for your bracelets?
Laquita and I mostly support our project financially. Our main costs are business cards, postage, and clay. We do have a few clay friends who donate funds to us, and it is appreciated.
I also have a friend, Dorothy Reynolds from MDPAG who helps me with canes, bracelets and zipper pulls. She does soccer and Minecraft bracelets, and zipper pulls.
Any advice for anyone that would like to start a similar project?
My advice to anyone who wants to start a ‘give back’ program is to find something that you are passionate about. Research your idea and find things that will work for you.
I make sure I have a person to touch base with. I email them as I get ready to mail packages and ask them to email me back when the package arrives. I would like to know that the kids get them, and they are not sitting in a mailroom. I sometimes get notes and letters from the hospitals thanking me, but the email is enough.
Everytime I get ready to make another pixelated cane I tell Rosemarie, “This is because of you”. And it is. Rosemarie is a confident 16-year-old. And that itself is a miracle. She is in the top three in her class and wants to be a doctor. She plays drums in a band and has friends who love and protect her. Rosemarie still has lots to deal with. I found out at Thanksgiving that she is going to Cincinnati this week to discuss the possibility of an intense surgery to lengthen her leg that is shorter than other from radiation. She has several other health issues to deal with, but she is here today, with us. And we are grateful.
When I send out packages to the hospitals it makes my heart happy. That’s why Laquita and I do this.