The Hair-Loss Journey: Chicago-Based Nonprofit Empowers Women Fighting Cancer and Facing Hair Loss
Courage for the Soul celebrates Women’s History Month with its largest donation to date, 1200 scarves, and the start of an ongoing partnership with Colorado Trading & Clothing Company.
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Chicago, IL. (March 27, 2019) – Cancer … a word that provokes a lot of feelings, pain, heartache, loss, pride, courage, and much more. It’s a very personal experience that takes a toll on nearly every aspect of life. For women, that oftentimes includes the loss of their hair. Maria Luisa Gonzalez, the founder of Courage for the Soul (CFTS), a nonprofit that provides free headscarves to women facing all forms of cancer, at any age and any stage, knows the toll that losing hair can take on a woman’s self-image and life experience.
Gonzalez was diagnosed with Stage 2- invasive ductal carcinoma, breast cancer, on March 5, 2016. “Very quickly I learned cancer does not give you notice before intruding your body,” she wrote on CFTS’s website. Among the many difficult changes that she faced, Gonzalez said losing her hair was profound. “Losing your hair is one of the most visual losses you experience in cancer; and, it’s a loss that can impact you long after your final treatment date as the chemo-hair growth begins,” she said. “Your hair grows totally different, and it does affect your self-esteem because you want to look and feel how you did before; it’s another journey.”
Shortly after her treatments began, Gonzalez received her first scarf. Several followed; each bringing joy, strength and courage, she said. “When I received my first scarf, it felt like a ray of sunshine; I felt empowered to go out and have my day.” Being a teacher of young students, Gonzalez said she felt some concerns initially with what her students would think and how they would react to her hair loss. Gonzalez teaches first grade at Mary Lyon School. The scarves enabled her to still feel beautiful and confident in the midst of so much change.
In October 2016, she received her final treatment and transitioned from being a “survivor” to a “thriver.” Gonzalez describes people who are diagnosed with cancer as survivors, and people who’ve entered remission as thrivers. “You already survived cancer; now, it’s about thriving and living your best life,” she said.
While living her best life, Gonzalez decided in 2017 to partner with the hospital where she received treatment, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, to hand out scarves to women fighting various cancers. After seeing the women’s eyes light up as they received the scarves, Gonzalez said she knew that she wanted to do more.
“My first visit to the hospital was so incredibly amazing and so emotional; the women were so grateful … I was really taken by it,” she said. After a couple of months and a second visit to the hospital, she decided to officially start Courage for the Soul (CFTS) with the help of a couple close friends and fellow cancer survivors, along with her oncology navigator nurse.
Courage for the Soul’s mission is to encourage and empower women battling cancer and facing chemo hair-loss by providing them with a free headscarf. Through their website, visitors can donate a scarf, sponsor a scarf, donate money, request a scarf for themselves or a friend, and find out about upcoming fundraiser events, photo shoots and socials. On March 28, the nonprofit is hosting a self-care social in honor of Women’s History Month to connect women recently diagnosed with cancer, “previvors,” current fighters and those in remission to discuss and learn more about self-care.
“This is a very exciting month for us because we not only received our largest donation to date from Soybu, they’ve also decided to extend their donation to give us an ongoing percentage of their profits from 2019,” Gonzalez said. “It’s incredible. We haven’t had anything like this before.” Last week, Soybu, a women’s activewear brand owned by Colorado Trading & Clothing Company, donated 1200 scarves to CFTS and decided to partner with the nonprofit for the rest of 2019. When Soybu customers use the code, “COURAGE”, in all caps, at checkout, 10 percent of the profits from their purchases will be added to a donation that will be presented to CFTS at the end of the year.
“The amount of gratitude I heard in Maria Luisa’s voice brought me to tears. I’m so thankful that we can do this,” Gina Akins, Colorado Trading & Clothing Company’s (CTCC) VP of Operations, said. Courage for the Soul immediately stood out to Akins when looking for an organization to donate to; she was born in the suburbs of Chicago and has a lot of family that live there. She also has a relative whose daughter is currently facing cancer.
"In a month celebrating the history of women, we wanted to support and encourage the inspirational fight of so many women against breast cancer and all forms of cancer. Donating to Courage for the Soul is a great way to link arms with another female-led organization that’s empowering and strengthening women,” CTCC’s CEO Tina Schmitt said.
“I always say my 8 to 3 job is teaching, and my 24-7 is to empower women,” Gonzalez said. Looking back on her experience and talking about the many women she interacts with who are facing cancer, she said: “You evolve through the journey. Some of us consider ourselves warriors because you’re fighting. You’re fighting as you’re going through it even though there are days that are less than terrific, and you can barely make it from the bedroom to the kitchen.” Through scarves, advocacy and care-focused events, CFTS provides a hand and a hug to women in this fight.
Since the start, Gonzalez has and continues to write a personal note with each scarf sent. She said: “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” Many of the women who’ve received scarves have emailed her or reached out through social media to thank her and share the difference that the scarves have made for them.
About Courage for the Soul
Courage for the Soul (CFTS) is a nonprofit organization on a mission to support and empower women who are facing cancer in any form, at any age and at any stage. The organization provides headscarves, at no cost, to women experiencing hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. The nonprofit also hosts events and photoshoots to encourage these women and increase advocacy for all forms of cancer. Maria Luisa Gonzalez founded CFTS in May 2017 after a second visit handing out scarves at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center; Maria Luisa received treatment for breast cancer at Advocate throughout most of 2016.
About Colorado Trading & Clothing Company
Colorado Trading & Clothing Company is a company inspired by active lifestyles, comfortability, versatility, and the beauty of the outdoors. Founded as a wholesale manufacturer and distributor for lifestyle apparel, CTCC continues to expand their product lines and create revolutionary fabrics that bring unsurpassed comfort and softness to those who wear them. CTCC is the parent company of Soybu, Colorado Clothing and Tranquility. In February 2019, CTCC became a federally certified, Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB). CTCC provides branded clothing for companies, groups and sports teams through their Colorado Clothing brand, and they provide women’s lifestyle wear through Soybu and Tranquility. Embrace comfortable, sustainable, versatile, quality clothing made to fit your life in style!
Colorado Trading & Clothing Company, Public Relations Director
Mackenzie Spillane, 719-648-4291