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Brave Beanies at ASU send hope to children with cancer

ASU club aims to alleviate some of the stress of childhood cancer

Junior Nursing majors, Elizabeth Yee, Zia Tyree, Kylee Close, and Mariana Burch pose for a photo outside of Taylor Place on September 17th, 2016.

Junior Nursing majors, Elizabeth Yee, Zia Tyree, Kylee Close, and Mariana Burch pose for a photo outside of Taylor Place on September 17th, 2016.


An ASU club is helping pack hope into jars sent to children patients with cancer.

Brave Beanies at ASU, started in early spring 2016, is the brainchild of nursing junior Marina Birch. 

Birch said that the club was inspired by the Jessie Rees Foundation, a California-based organization that support children with cancer and their families.

“They (the Jesse Rees Foundation) donate little jars to kids all over the world,” Birch said. “So what we do is we make beanies to put in the jars to send to the kids.” 

These jars, called JoyJars, are filled with toys and other supplies given to child patients with cancer as a way to inspire hope among those fighting the disease. 

The foundation's namesake, Jessica (Jessie) Joy Rees, a child cancer patient, wanted to send love and camaraderie to other children battling the disease. She decided to fill jars with toys as a way to spread hope. After her death in 2012, the Foundation kept the spirit of the jars going.

Birch said that the plan to donate to Jessie Rees came after searching for a way to re-purpose her personal hobby: loom weaving.

“I was just making the beanies and I didn’t really know what to do with them,” Birch said. “And the foundation is right where I live back home, and so it’s part of the community. Everyone knows about it and it was great to give back, even from far away.”

It is the story behind the Jesse Rees Foundation itself that inspired Birch because of her personal connection to the community the foundation is based in.

“The (Jessie Rees) foundation was actually started by a girl with cancer,” Birch said. “It definitely impacts when you know that someone in your community is a child with cancer and has passed away from it." 

Birch said that she didn’t realize the significance of her ASU club until she spread the word around campus.

“The more we tell people they’re like ‘that’s awesome’ or ‘that’s so great,” Birch said. "I think having that confirmation from everyone else, they agree too.”

The club makes the hats using a loom, which Birch said is an easier way to make clothing than crocheting or knitting.

“Everybody that we’ve taught, even at our first meeting, has picked it up right away,” Birch said.

According to Birch, this ease of learning allows the club to operate its events in a casual atmosphere.

“We want you to enjoy your experience,” Birch said. “And knowing they're doing good for someone I think is a big thing too.

This casual experience has been part of the club since day one, and carried over to their first event called "Loom and Chill."

It was at "Loom and Chill" that nursing junior and club member Elizabeth Yee said she knew that the club was founded on something special.

"During our first big event for 'Loom and Chill,' we thought people would just come for ice cream and then just leave,” Yee said. “And then when a bunch of people actually stayed and were actually doing the looms it was like ‘huh, people actually do care about this!’ It kind of just reassured us that we were doing a good thing.”

They keep the important mission of the club in mind throughout the meetings, despite the relaxed nature of the events they hold.

“We all realized that this was something that we needed to make a priority,” said Zia Tyree, nursing junior and club member. “These beanies are something these kids could have forever. They could look back and I say I remember when maybe I beat cancer, maybe I’m still going through it. This is something that is helping me.”

Those interested in helping Brave Beanies should join the club’s Facebook group to find out about any future meetings.


Reach the reporter at jdarge@asu.edu or follow  @jeffdarge on Twitter.

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