For Jake Teitelbaum, the ill-fitting, plain beige socks he was issued in the hospital summed up everything he hated about cancer treatment.
Teitelbaum, 23, was diagnosed with a form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 while attending Wake Forest. The illness forced him to have a stem cell transplant and live in near-isolation for weeks. He hated the chemotherapy that came along with the illness, and he hated being cooped up in a hospital (as pictured above) during his senior year of college. But most of all, he hated those socks.
“The socks were always beige and two sizes too big,” he says. “They represented the entire experience in the sense of the sterility of the hospital.”
Now that Teitelbaum has completed treatment and is cancer-free, he’s set out to help encourage other seriously ill patients—one colorful pair of socks at a time.
Teitelbaum, who returned to Wake and graduated in 2017, started Resilience Gives this past year. The company sells colorful socks designed by patients that are available for anyone to purchase online. Each pair of $20 socks benefits a patient who is being treated for cancer or another serious illness. About half of the profits from each pair sold is given to the patient and his or her family.
So far Resilience Gives has sold over 5,000 pairs of socks and raised $35,000 for patients at hospitals on the East Coast. Teitelbaum says it was important that the socks were made in America, and he found the perfect partner in the Renfro Corporation in Mount Airy.
Patients can design their socks themselves or work with a professional designer who has volunteered to help. Patients have chosen such things as owls, angels, stars, and sports motifs to put on their socks. In addition, Teitelbaum has established a joint nonprofit, the Resilience Patient Project Inc., which provides financial and emotional support to patients by distributing profits and organizing volunteer efforts.
“I think what we’re getting at is much deeper than socks,” he says. “It’s about patient dignity and purpose. I’m motivated by the idea of transforming the patient experience. We can’t change their circumstances, but we can give them an outlet, a sense of purpose, and a chance for their family and friends to generate support.”
Teitelbaum hopes to expand the program nationwide in the next few years.
“Imagine being admitted to the hospital, and instead of receiving those poorly made beige socks, you received a pair designed by another patient along with the opportunity to make your own.”