I am turning heartbreak into hope.”
– LARA MACGREGOR, FOUNDER, HOPE SCARVES
Cancer touches us all and the statistics are staggering. It’s touched two of my 10 siblings, a few cousins and a long list of friends.
But there is hope.
And hope defines the mission Lara Mac- Gregor, her family, her staff, volunteers, benefactors, and donors share with great passion and unbridled enthusiasm.
“Hope Scarves captures the stories of women who have dealt with cancer and their scarves; and pass those stories along to those who are facing cancer,” MacGregor said. “It’s simple intentionally. We want to pass on a little bit of hope from one woman to another.”
She was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer while seven months pregnant. She was 30 years old and needed every ounce of energy, and hope, she could muster.
“A friend of a friend sent me a box of scarves. It was inspiring to get this gift from a woman I never met, who had taken the time to pack up these scarves and she wrote a note that said simply, ‘You can do this,’” MacGregor recalled. “Every time I wore one of her scarves, I felt her strength and encouragement.
“Once I finished that treatment, my hair started growing back and I wanted to return them. But my friend told me to find somebody else who could use them. I took the scarves to a conference for young women with breast cancer where I met a woman named Roberta from Pittsburgh and I gave her the scarves. I realized how passing them on brought me strength.
“Passing along the scarves to Roberta and encouraging her through my story brought me healing and strength. And I thought about doing this on a bigger scale to help more women facing all types of cancer.”
That gesture begat the non-profit Hope Scarves business. She operated first out of a spare bedroom in her home in 2012, and now she and staff members work out of office space on Sherrin Avenue in St. Matthews.
“The response and enthusiasm from the community and volunteers was incredible and the operation took off from there,” MacGregor said. “I wrote a business plan, did the paperwork for a non-profit, started a web site and here we are, eight years later, with a bustling team who are fulfilling all of these orders.”
It’s a simple process: colorful, stylish scarves are donated or purchased and packaged, along with a donor’s personal cancer survivor story, and passed along to those who request one. Both the scarves and the stories are packaged and sent to the person battling the disease.
“Our youngest recipient was 2 years old and our oldest is 97 and the scarves are for all types of cancer,” MacGregor said. “You go online and fill out a request form where you can specify color, design, etc… You can request a scarf for yourself if you’re receiving treatment or you can request a gift scarf for someone you know who is going through treatment.
“It’s all donation based, no specific cost, and we’ve had requests with small donations all the way up to $1,000,” MacGregor said. “And when we receive the scarves back, we ask for that personal story too. We send them to Highland Cleaners and they dry-clean every one of them free of charge.”
The business now tracks more than 12,000 scarves that have reached all 50 states and 24 countries. They manage each scarf using the Salesforce software, which enables Lara and staff to track each scarf and the story or stories that go with them.
Here’s one of her favorites: “I was at a conference and sharing scarves and stories. I gave a scarf that was packaged-up to a young woman. I told her about our program and she took it to her room. She came back the next day in tears to tell me how special it was. She told me that she is a rose gardener, her mother is a rose gardener and her grandmother was a rose gardener. She had lost her grandmother to the same type of cancer she had. Her scarf had bright red roses on it.”
Powerful. Inspirational. And if you spend a few moments with Lara, you’ll experience all of that and more.
Diagnosed in 2014 with metastatic breast cancer, MacGregor knows her time here is finite. In response, she led Hope Scarves to expand its mission to include metastatic breast cancer research. Since 2014 Hope Scarves she has raised $300,000 for research which is matched 1:1 for a total investment of $600,000. Metastatic breast cancer, the most advanced/terminal stage of breast cancer receives a small percent of the millions raised for raised for breast cancer. Lara is working hard to change that.
“The notion of cancer has been with my boys all their lives and they’re involved in the mission of Hope Scarves,” she said. “For me, I hope to show them how to turn a difficult experience into something meaningful for others.”
IF YOU DONATE
Hope Scarves’ main fundraiser is called “Colors Of Courage” and will take place Nov. 9 at Mellwood Art and Entertainment Center. For information on how to purchase tickets, donate, volunteer or shop, go to hopescarves.org.