Keane Veran knows from personal experience how dirty hats can be. Currently an undergrad at UC Riverside, when he was just 10 years old, he was diagnosed with Leukemia and had to undergo aggressive treatment. "Cancer is terrible and quickly stole my freedom and joy as it changed my identity from a child to a patient," he says. And the treatment also stole his hair.
Like most cancer patients, he got into the habit of wearing hats to cover his bald head, but going unwashed, they are breeding grounds for bacteria, something that can be incredibly dangerous for cancer patients and their weakened immune systems.
An entrepreneur at heart, Keane created a new line of hats with these vulnerable patients in mind called OURA, all made of nanomineral-infused threads that fight bacteria, are self-cleaning, and even fight odors. Even better, proceeds from the sales benefit Make-a-Wish Foundation, the organization he credits to giving him the hope that was instrumental in his recovery. In 2011, they granted his wish to meet President Obama, and he was able to spend several days exploring Washington D.C.
Now, for every 1,000 OURA hats that are sold, the company grants a wish through Make-a-Wish to uplift a fellow patient during their process of recovery.
We had a chance to catch up with Keane about the amazing work he's doing:
Net Impact Los Angeles: Do you or your family have a background in entrepreneurship? What was it like to launch this enterprise?
Keane Veran: Yes, my dad was an entrepreneur as well. He's been a big inspiration for us to pursue this dream. However, we were very much affected by our circumstances growing up as a family facing cancer. We really wanted to help other families dealing with this disease. That's why we started OURA - to unite a community behind children fighting cancer. It has been so great to see people rally behind these kids and be a part of the magic. Of course, it has been a challenge and an incredible learning process but it is all worth it to know we are making an impact for these families.
NILA: The OURA hats are so great because they don't just answer a problem that cancer patients have, but all of us have. What has the impact and response been like so far?
KV: It has been really cool just to see how many people dig this product. Since OURA headwear is made with advanced fabric, it has 10 different features. So everyone seems to like different aspects of the hat from the ease of cleaning to the sparkling minerals in the fabric. We even had someone tell us he liked just pouring water on the hat to show off the water repellency to other people. One comment we keep getting from people is that they are surprised how light and soft the hat feels when they finally get their hands on it. We're already getting requests for more colors since we currently only have one available. But we do have some cool designs coming soon!
NILA: How did the partnership with Make A Wish come about?
KV: My relationship with Make-a-Wish extends all the way back to 2008 when I was first diagnosed with leukemia. My oncologist referred me to MAW and after a few discussions they began to work on my wish to meet the President of the United States. In 2011, my wish was granted and it completely revitalized my recovery. I came back filled with so much hope and finally felt like my identity was more than just a "patient." After my wish, I became a Wish Ambassador for MAW, speaking at fundraisers and events about my wish experience and the lasting impact that it had on me. My brother & co-founder, Shaun, also became involved with MAW as a Wish Granter. In this role, he is the family's main point of contact and he helps to determine a child's one true wish.
NILA: What is the most memorable wish you've seen fulfilled?
KV: We are in the process of working towards our first wish. We launched on November 7, 2017 (on the anniversary of the date I was diagnosed in 2008) with our first design and wish goal. We are so excited to be making progress towards actually granting a wish of our own alongside 1000 people. Through our involvement with MAW, we have seen so many cool wishes granted though. One that stands out is a child's wish to visit the Miyazaki animation studio in Japan. Shaun was the wish granter and helped to identify that child's wish.
NILA: How can people get involved with your mission?
We are hoping to make a real difference in cancer recovery for patients so there are 3 ways that people can get involved.
a) The absolute best way to support us is with the purchase of a hat. They can literally wear a wish and become part of the 1000 people who embrace the power of community to amplify hope.
b) Simply sharing our story and mission on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter would be an awesome and easy way to be a part of our cause.
c) With the final way that people can get involved I need to introduce one program that we have - the 1K challenge.
For children battling cancer, hope is crucial to healing. Hope instills resilience which leads to recovery. But it can be so difficult to hold onto. Cancer is a life in extremes - debilitating lows alongside the most exhilaratingly emotional highs. With such wild fluctuations on a daily basis, staying hopeful becomes a challenge. I personally struggled with this and it is something that is very common in the cancer community. We wanted to help address this. One way was with wish granting. The other way is with the 1K challenge.
At OURA, we were inspired by the Japanese legend of folding 1000 origami cranes to receive a wish. Now, we ask other pediatric patients to undertake this ancient challenge to receive a wish of their very own. The 1K requires commitment... commitment to a wish, a commitment to hope, and ultimately a commitment to healing. And once they have folded all 1000 cranes, we "trade cranes" with them. In return for 100 of their origami cranes, we will ship them 1 OURAgami crane. With this program, we are hoping to bring healing on all fronts: physically (a healthy hat), emotionally (with hope), mentally (a challenge that they can work towards in chemotherapy), and socially (inviting family & friends to fold with them). This was a very brief rundown of the challenge [we face].
How can people get involved with this? We could really use help getting the word out about this program to the families who would benefit from this program. So if your readers know of a child who is undergoing treatment please send them our information so they can take advantage of it!