From blanket pillows to baby bibs, Phila U. students design and create items for cancer patients

Nine months after Jared Levy’s mother, Deb, lost the battle to breast cancer, he found a way for her memory to live on: ChemoClothes.

Inspired by his mother’s hobby of knitting during chemotherapy treatment, he founded the Marlton, New Jersey-based charity in December 2008. Since then, the nonprofit has sold donated handcrafted fashion apparel and accessories to cancer patients and their families and has used the funds for educational and therapeutic programs, as well as grants given to cancer victims and cancer organizations.

None of the items are produced in-house, Levy explained. Cancer patients, family, friends and supporters create the items and donate them to the charity for sale.

“The money they get from that is used to financially support families who have someone with cancer. This might be for cab rides to the hospital, babysitting or bills. They go and find different people in need,” said Benjamin Freeman II, retired president of H. Freeman & Son, Inc. and current Philadelphia University adjunct professor.

Wednesday morning at the University’s Tuttleman Center, Freeman’s Survey of Apparel Industry class presented 165 handcrafted items to representatives from ChemoClothes and a panel of judges with industry leaders, business owners and apparel executives.

As part of a semester-long project, Professor Freeman’s 65 students were assigned to form 11 companies and design, market and produce merchandise for a nonprofit organization. Wednesday morning, the students donated their merchandise to ChemoClothes. The 165 items included headbands, bibs, blankets, tote bags, infinity scarves and clutch bags.

“It helps with their core curriculum as business students. They get to learn how to, essentially, run a business, come up with a business plan, marketing scheme, merchandizing, production, all phases of fashion marketing in a way,” Levy said, “but it also gives them a sense of corporate social responsibility by giving back to the community and back to a charity.”

One team who named its company, Waves of Comfort, designed blanket pillows. The large fleece blanket contained a pouch where the blanket could fold neatly inside, converting into a soft pillow for cancer patients in need of emotional or physical comfort, the group explained. Each blanket costs $25.

Another student company, Tied Together, designed crocheted headbands for baby girl cancer patients. The pastel-colored, 100 percent cotton headbands were embellished with crocheted flowers bearing pearls. They were priced at $17.50.

If all 165 items are sold, Philadelphia University students will have raised $2,500 total, Freeman said.

“Our school is so focused on the fashion aspect and not so much the community, which this is all about, so this is a good way to give back…and see what we can do as students,” said senior Nina Toscano from Waves of Comfort.

The nature-themed company name was inspired by Deb. All 11 teams were instructed to integrate Deb’s style into the merchandise, Levy said.

“She grew up during the 60s and 70s, so the products were either hippie, organic” or used “earth tones” and were “practical items because she wasn’t very flashy,” Levy said of his mother. Another group, B.B. Bibs, designed earth-toned bibs and named some “All You Need is Love” and “Hey Jude.” The girls heard Deb was a huge Beatles fan.

Since ChemoClothes’ inception in 2008, Levy said, the experience has been “tremendous.” “We’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars for local families, local organizations. We’ve touched many people’s lives by giving them a charitable outlet for their creative work.”

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