By Megan S. Willman

Each signature Hope Scarves bow is tied by a volunteer. 

I never cease to be amazed by the strength of others and the ways in which one person can start a movement toward positive change. Lara MacGregor is one of those people. She has stage IV metastatic breast cancer and is also the founder of Hope Scarves, a non-profit organization that has touched cancer patients in our community and around the world.

When Lara started treatment after her first diagnosis in 2007, a woman she didn’t know sent her a box of beautiful head scarves with a note that read, “You can do this!” Once her treatment finished, she boxed up those scarves and passed them to another woman who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. Perhaps the seed for the non-profit was planted then, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Lara formed Hope Scarves. “This was my attempt to turn a scary time of life into something positive that could help others,” Lara says. “I could wallow or live in fear, but that’s not my nature.”

Five years ago, Lara began working from the spare bedroom of her home, sending a few scarves a week to other women diagnosed with cancer. Each package contained a message of support and solidarity. The word spread about Hope Scarves, and soon Lara was adding volunteers and staff to a growing organization. Today, Hope Scarves has sent nearly 5,000 scarves all over the United States and to 12 foreign countries to people of all ages. Each shipment of scarves contains a story from another cancer survivor. Lara firmly believes that it’s the power of that story that brings so much support to the women who receive the scarves.

Volunteers from Junior League of Louisville package scarves for a hospital partner.

On the day I met Lara, she had returned from a busy summer traveling with her husband and two sons. She’s feeling well these days and is grateful for so much in her life. This year Hope Scarves received the Inc.credible Awards People’s Choice Award for Small Business of the Year from Greater Louisville, Inc. From the small beginnings in her bedroom, Lara never dreamed this idea would mean so much to so many. When she moved to Louisville with her husband and toddler in 2009, she didn’t know anyone here. “I shared the idea and wondered how it would be received. Louisville is an amazing community that has embraced Hope Scarves in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. It was meant to start here.”

In order to fulfill its mission, Hope Scarves depends on the support of volunteers, and there are many ways one can get involved. More information about these opportunities is available here, 502.333.9715, or at the Hope Scarves office, 141 N. Sherrin Ave., Suite 227, Louisville, KY 40207.

  1. Anyone can can request a scarf for herself or send one to someone else as a gift.
  2. Any business, church group, or club can hold a “Scarf & Story” drive. If someone in the group is a cancer survivor, she can share her story to accompany the scarves, but a story is not required with a scarf donation.
  3. Cancer survivors can share their stories on the Hope Scarves website. Those stories will be paired with donated scarves.
  4. Volunteers can help with sorting and distributing scarves or doing light office work. Regular volunteer hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10am-noon.
  5. Enjoy a “Sips & Scarves” night out with your friends. Volunteers are needed in the evenings to help sort the scarves when a large shipment arrives.
  6. Anyone can donate a scarf. The ideal size for a headscarf is 30 square or greater or oblong at 17 wide. (No knit scarves, please.) If you aren’t sure your scarf will work as a donation, please send it anyway. Those that don’t fit the needs at Hope Scarves are passed to other area non-profit organizations. “All scarves are in one way or another repurposed, reused, and shared,” Lara says.
  7. Hope Scarves is looking for groups who may be willing to sew scarves to help meet demand. (No knitting, please.)
  8. Do you own a consignment shop? If there are scarves in your inventory that haven’t sold, consider donating them.
  9. Sign up on the website to keep abreast of ongoing volunteer opportunities.