WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Jake Teitelbaum had just finished his junior year at Wake Forest University when he was diagnosed with refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, in June 2015.
His initial treatments were at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Then in January 2016, he received a stem cell transplant at the University of Florida Health.
“When you’re admitted to the hospital as an in-patient, you get your typical hospital gown then you get your hospital non-slip socks,” Teitelbaum said.
For someone who had always appreciated wearing quirky, unusual, fun and vibrant socks, Teitelbaum said he found it unusual that he received a pair of socks that was “anything but fun and vibrant.”
“They are usually beige or a weird yellow or blue or what not,” he said.
That experience led to his brainstorming an idea that eventually became Resilience Gives, an apparel company based in Winston-Salem.
Resilience Gives has been a member of Winston Starts, which provides business incubator services in Winston-Salem, since early 2017.
“It’s definitely been a positive experience,” Teitelbaum said. “It (Winston Starts) has in its own way grown and evolved as an organization. It’s been fun to be a part of that.”
Teitelbaum, the founder of Resilience Gives, co-owns the business with Andee Wallace, who is also the company’s director of operations.
“At Resilience Gives, we believe in the power of community and creativity to empower families impacted by disease,” Wallace said.
Resilience Gives teams up with children who are battling cancer to design high quality, non-slip socks inspired by their experiences in the hospital - their stories of resilience.
For every pair of socks sold, a pair is donated to a child in the hospital.
Since starting in 2016, Resilience Gives has donated more than $144,000 to cancer research and family support focused nonprofits, Wallace said.
She also said that since October 2019, they have donated nearly 7,000 pairs of socks to children in more than 40 hospitals across the country, including Brenner Children’s Hospital.
“It started with me just wearing my own socks,” Teitelbaum said. “As small and as crazy as it seems, wearing something that was personal and meaningful to me instead of the typical hospital socks really made a difference in how I perceived that whole experience. It was like, ‘Yes, I have cancer when I’m in college, but that doesn’t have to define my whole existence. I can still bring a little piece of me to that experience.’”
He started developing his business during his transition to maintenance chemotherapy.
The first child cancer patient he worked with was Samaury Carter of Winston-Salem.
“The idea was to work with him to help him design his own pair of socks with the idea that he could bring a little bit of light, a little bit of personality to his experience,” Teitelbaum said.
Now, the company has collaborated with more than 100 families.
“We are working with children who at various stages of their cancer journey to create these sock designs that are inspired by their experiences,” he said.
On the company website at www.resilience.gives, there are nine styles of socks by nine children, including Benji Sanchez of Las Vegas, Nev.
“He is a brain cancer survivor and during one of his hospital stays, a nurse hung a paper rainbow on his IV pole,” Teitelbaum said. “For the family in this really dark time - he was in the middle of a stem cell transplant - there were these little bursts of light, these little bursts of colorful rainbows.”
He said the family took on the rainbow symbol theme throughout Benji’s journey.
Resilience Gives worked with the family to create rainbow-themed socks.
The company has also collaborated with childhood cancer survivors Angel Richards and Lilli Hicks, both of Greensboro and who were patients at Brenner Children’s Hospital.
Angel, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2016, has co-designed socks twice, one of which is on the Resilience Gives website - Angel’s Polar Bears socks.
Lilli, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014 and received a stem cell transplant at Duke University Hospital in 2016, made the Lilli Owl socks with Teitelbaum in 2017. The colors used included her favorites - blue and purple.
“I felt kind of special because it was something good that came out of a bad situation,” Lilli, now 18, said of having her idea chosen as a sock design by Resilience Gives. “It was something that I really enjoyed, and I’ve kept up with the company the past four years.”
She praised the company for its sock donations to children in hospitals.
“I think that’s great because it’s something they will enjoy,” she said.
Her father, Travis Hicks, said he likes that Resilience Gives offers patients the chance to engage in something that can benefit them and other children going through cancer treatment.
“And it gets them engaged in a way that uses their creativity,” said Hicks, the author of “No Match For Her,” a book in which he tells the story of his experience having a child with cancer and includes the socks.
Casey Crossan of Oak Ridge said she is impressed with Resilience Gives, saying the company continues to evolve and get better in terms of quality and marketing.
“It’s people like Jake and Andee, his partner, in Resilience that make it so much better for kids in treatment,” Crossan said. “They put a smile on their faces.”
She said she found out about the company in 2016 when her son, Conner, who died in 2018, was in treatment for bone cancer.
“I think I have every pair of socks that Resilience has done,” Crossan said. “I buy them for gifts.”
Teitelbaum and Wallace are partners both in business and in life.
Teitelbaum, who grew up in Durham, Conn., graduated from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in business and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 2017. He and Wallace met in 2019 and are now a couple living in Bend, Ore. Wallace, who is originally from Oregon, has a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Resilience Gives offers non-slip socks in three styles - double layer, lightweight and relaxed-fit. All of them are made with “super strong” non-toxic (phthalate-free) grippers.
The double-layer non-slip socks are designed for people who want cozy non-slip socks to wear at home or in the hospital. These double-layered socks are made with an inner layer of aloe-infused feathered nylon and an outer layer of merino wool.
The lightweight non-slip socks can be worn on a yoga mat, in a hospital room or with sneakers. They are made with a moisture wicking jute fiber blend.
Designed for wider feet, the relaxed-fit socks are knitted with a merino wool blend throughout and reinforced with nylon at the heel, sole and toe. These stretchy socks are knitted with arch support to give feet “a gentle hug, while keeping a loose fit throughout the sock,” the company states.
In terms of the design, Wallace said they often get submissions from children and their families with drawings and ideas.
“When we start working with a family, we usually start a conversation to learn more about their journey with cancer and dig in a little bit about what was impactful or meaningful to them personally in that journey,” Wallace said. “Sometimes we stick with the design that they submitted. Other times, we find a different idea, through that conversation, that actually resonates more with them.”
Next, those ideas are turned into a graphic design that will ultimately be knitted into the sock.
“We definitely have some back and forth with the families as the design comes together to make sure that they like it and we pick colors that they like,” Wallace said.
The socks range in price from $10 to $25 per pair in sizes for toddlers through adults.
Teitelbaum said people have responded positively to the socks.
“Because of the impact of COVID, our total sales in 2020 were down 22% from 2019,” he said. “However, we finished the year strong in November and December. When compared to November and December of 2019, our sales during the months of November and December 2020 were up 53%.”
This year, plans are to work with new families on different designs within the company’s three styles of socks.
“I think we will also explore other styles as well,” Teitelbaum said.
The company’s immediate goals are to reach a threshold of 10,000 pairs of socks donated.
“On a very tangible level, we want to donate a lot of socks, but beyond that, we want to continue to spread that message of resilience, of hope, from families who have been through that journey to families who are still in the thick of that journey,” Teitelbaum said.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.