The incredible story of an organization helping young cancer making socks

Organization empowers young cancer patients to design, produce their own socks. (Photo: Resilience)

There are so very few good surprises in life, so when a package recently came to the Creedon’s home in Alexandria, 12-year-old Jack Creedon insisted on opening it. And for good reason.

“I hope I’m not cutting the socks,” shouted Jack as he took a knife to the small box.

To fully appreciate why Jack is so excited about opening, of all things, a box of socks, we need to travel 330 miles to Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

This picture postcard town was the inspiration for fictional Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. It’s also home to an American company renowned for making a product we all rely on.

It’s quite possible that the socks on your feet where made by the Renfro Corporation.

“We work with a lot of different brands from New Balance, Fruit of the Loom, Carhartt, Smartwool,” says Product Development Technician Alison Strickland.

Renfro also believes in giving back.

Strickland says, “It’s probably one of the most awesome things I’ve ever been a part of.”

Strickland plays a key role in a work project that shatters the sterile stereotype of the assembly line.

What you are looking at is the newest Renfro sock designed by and for young people fighting cancer.

The motivating force behind this remarkable collaboration lives only a quick drive down to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, where recent graduate Jake Teitelbaum lives.

“It amazes me to think how much he’s been through and how much drive and initiative to say I’m going to fight this,” says Strickland.

Jake was supposed to graduate a year prior with a business major. He was determined to be a successful entrepreneur. But college was put on hold after being diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Teitelbaum says, “You walk into being admitted, you sign your name here and here, and here are your socks. I don’t want these socks. These are the last things I want. This is the last place I want to be.”

Teitelbaum says those hospital-issued socks represented the suffering and the hopelessness consuming him. As an act of personal rebellion he started wearing his own socks to treatments.

“It seems absolutely ridiculous to say it out loud but socks helped me retain a little bit of me,” says Teitelbaum.

In his darkest moment Jake hatched a plan he’s now realizing. Only a handful of months after a life-saving stem cell transplant in 2016, this 23-year-old started Resilience.

He collaborates with young cancer patients. Together they design vibrant, high quality socks based on each patient’s personal story. A portion of proceeds help families pay mounting medical bills. If the family can afford care, he donates a portion of proceeds to a childhood cancer charity like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

LLS is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients.

Last fall, Jake met Jack while the 12-year-old was being treated at Duke University Hospital.

Teitelbaum says, “Jack is a warrior.”

This little boy has been fighting for his life, his entire life.

Dan and Lesli Creedon adopted then-toddlers Jack and Catherine from an orphanage in Siberia. You would never guess that these siblings are not biologically related as close as they are

The hope for these children was that their beginning would be the toughest challenge they’d face. But two years ago bruises starting forming all over Jack’s body.

“Three hours later we’re at Fairfax Hospital and he has Leukemia. And I’m like, what?!, “says Jack’s father Dan Creedon.

Despite the best care there were set backs and complications. They couldn’t find a bone marrow match. Their only options: do nothing and hope Jack didn’t relapse or try a risky stem cell transplant.

Dan Creedon says while fighting back tears, “And let me tell you. That was the toughest decision I ever made.”

It’s undoubtedly a coincidence. But the same procedure that saved Jake, saved Jack.

“And what I’ll tell every other parent is you find a way because it’s your kid. And don’t worry about if you can do it or not, you just do,” says Dan Creedon.

We were there when the socks were finished in North Carolina and weeks later when the box was opened in Virginia filled with Jack’s Zoo socks.

Strickland says, “As if the colorfulness wasn’t enough to make you smile you see that ghost and you can’t help but smile and think about Jack and his story and how something so small can mean so much to somebody really.”

Jack’s had one unique request during the sock design process: He wanted his beloved Ghosty included. Ghosty is the trusty stuffed animal always by his side, filling him with courage during those arduous cancer treatments.

Jack says, “I think of myself as a kid with a bump in the road, a huge bump, a foot-tall bump, maybe a mountainous bump.”

A boy and a family almost on the other side of that mountain.

“When I opened the box and I put the socks on I kind of felt like I’m ready to walk away from cancer,” says Jack’s mother Lesli.

If life’s uncertainties have taught the Creedons anything it’s how to laugh with each other and how to share the richness and the challenges of life together.