We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison Yacht and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allison, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
Without persistence I would be nowhere. This is one of my favorite quotes: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” And yes, in this sense, I am the mosquito.
In 2011, I had been running a database consulting and training company for 10 years. I had my future all planned out. If all went well, I’d get new opportunities, grow the business and stay on the very same path I was on. Little did I know, something would happen to me that would completely change my perspective and direction in life.
I went from my business and my clients being a major focus, to not caring one iota about their computers or their database issues. Once you find that your 5 year old daughter has cancer, suddenly, that work feels insignificant. Within days of Merry’s diagnosis, I had transferred all my clients to a colleague and was focused on helping my daughter go through cancer treatment for a year.
Let’s rewind a bit though. Merry had been sick for several months and I kept taking her to the doctor, but they said everything was fine. But one Friday morning, she woke up with a black eye. Everything was clearly not fine. It turned out that a tumor she had was putting too much pressure on her face. So, over the next 4 days, we went from the doctor to the hospital to the emergency surgery to a cancer diagnosis. In less than one week, our family’s life completely changed.
On our first day of treatment, our nurse brought us a backpack full of stuff to keep Merry busy. It may seem like a miniscule thing in the face of what we were up against, but that backpack soon became a constant in our lives. It felt amazing to know that someone was thinking about us. The organization that put it together is called Bags of Fun and they were founded because Gabby’s mother saw what a difference “play” can be for a child going through a difficult treatment. She was right, and receiving that gift was a bright spot in a dark time. I tucked that thought away as I focused on getting Merry through her painful treatments.
Her physical pain wasn’t even the only thing that made me feel helpless though. I also had to watch my formerly active, outgoing kid lose her spark along with her hair. The hair loss hit her really hard and she became incredibly self-conscious, which was tough to see. She stopped wanting to go out or see friends and I had no idea what to do to make her feel better. We tried everything, but what finally worked was a simple lightweight hoodie she could use to control who saw her head.
By the time we were done with treatment, we had the idea for BraveHoods. But, at that point, I was in no position to do anything about it. We took a year to recover and during that time, we talked about how we could give back and make a difference to other families who were going through what we went through. Just like Bags of Fun had done for us, we wanted to create small bright spots for kids with cancer and their families.
I am not a doctor; I am not a nurse; I can’t cure cancer. But I knew we could make a difference and I also knew that I was never going to be interested in someone’s database problems again. So, we set about making BraveHoods a reality.
But honestly, it’s not about BraveHoods. I’m sharing my story with you simply to demonstrate the fact that small acts can have big impacts. I couldn’t do everything, but I could do one thing. I’m going to write that again – do one thing.
When looking at the problems of the world and the issues that are close to your own heart, it can be incredibly overwhelming to think about what you can do to help. “How could I, one regular person, do anything to make a difference?” And when you zoom out like that, it’s normal to feel too helpless to do anything at all.
The key is to zoom way in close on whatever you want to fix. While you probably can’t solve the whole problem, you can help individuals who are facing the problem.
As Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” For every problem that exists, there are individuals and small organizations out there helping the individuals who are impacted. The further along in treatment we got, the more I saw other organizations like Bags of Fun. I knew how much those little things made a difference to our experience and seeing it from that perspective empowered me to feel like I could make a difference too.
But you don’t have to start an organization to help people. I did because I didn’t want to give up my entrepreneurial drive. That was still very much a part of me and my goals for the future.
You just have to use what you have right now to do one thing to help one person. When you get tempted to zoom out and look at that overwhelming 300-foot view, don’t give in. When you get tempted to look ahead at how your way of helping will look long-term, don’t give in.
The truth is, when I started BraveHoods, I had no idea what I was doing. Some days I still don’t. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to zoom in on the discomfort children with cancer feel when they lose their hair. That experience sucks – for the kid, for their parents and their siblings. So, if I could help even just a few other kids get their spark back with a hoodie, then I was going to do whatever the heck it took.
So, what will your one thing be?
I know I’m not changing the world by gifting hoodies, but I know for sure that I’m changing the experience of each family we touch. And for me, that’s far more fulfilling than wringing my hands and complaining about the fact that there’s nothing I can do.
Each of us has the power to make a difference. What you do or the scale at which you do it is unimportant. The only way to truly fail is to do nothing.
“To move forward you have to give back.” That’s what Oprah says, and I trust Oprah. Most of us continually strive to be better people but it can be hard to know how to do that. From my experience, I can promise you that doing one small thing to help others makes you better in more ways than you can imagine. It may be hard to start, but you’ll soon find that you’re addicted to the feeling of giving back.
Never forget that small gestures often feel big to the people who receive them.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
BraveHoods is a one-for-one nonprofit organization. We gift inspirational hooded apparel to kids with cancer and their sibling/s. We know everyone loves a hoodie, so we sell our cool shirts and for each one sold, one is donated. We are proud to have just reached 10,000 shirts donated, although to be honest, I can’t wait until we never have to gift another BraveHood because cancer has been cured. In the meantime, please help us get more BraveHoods to more brave kids and check out our online store at www.bravehoods.org
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My best friend is visiting for a week and I want to show her the best parts of Colorado. First, we would head over to Red Rocks to hear our favorite band, Then we would head over to Steamboat for some amazing hiking and tubing. Next we would check out the shopping in Cherry Creek and end with a walk along Pearl Street in Boulder.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to all the parents who have had to watch their kids suffer through cancer treatment. I shoutout to all the siblings who feel like they are in the backseat. And, to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that go to work everyday to help their patients feel better.