Monday, November 29, 2021

Sister act committed to serve survivors

It sounds cliché, but you really got to love it when a good plan comes together. That’s how sisters Jeanine Dillinger, Karen Hraban, and Kathy Farkas feel every time they think back to that one fateful night in 2018.

As the story goes, all three ladies were back together again at their parent’s house for Christmas. While sitting around talking about life, kids, family, and career aspirations, they kicked around the idea of going into business with each other. There were plenty of options circulating in that room, but they kept coming back to an idea Karen had to create a subscription box and gift registry wishlist to support and empower cancer survivors, where anyone can purchase one or multiple cancer care packages for their friend or loved one.

The name? LoveHerHugHer. And the idea hit home instantly.

Karen, the youngest of the sisters, was already a two-time cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 31, eight months after giving birth to her first child. She won that battle only to be diagnosed with angiosarcoma a few years later in 2015. The second diagnosis caused her to undergo a half mastectomy. On top of all of that, the family had already faced tragedy with the death of their oldest brother, Les Allen. Les died of leukemia in his 30s.

“We started kicking names around and came up with [LoveHerHugHer],” said Jeanine, a longtime Flower Mound resident. Karen and Kathy currently live in Kansas City. “We each put money in, got the website done, and reached out to survivors for our first beta test to see if the idea was good.”

She added, “At that point, we were just trying to get our name out there any way we could to get our tribe going.”

Months later, they shipped out their first care box to a survivor. Today, LoveHerHugHer’s reach continues to inspire and extend beyond Jeanine, Kathy, and Karen’s wildest dreams. Since June 2020, they have gifted over 2,000 subscription boxes, which include gifts and essentials ranging from lotions to essential oils, lip balm, blankets, hats, prayer boxes, fun socks, jewelry, journals, and handmade items. They’ve donated over $1,400 to organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Making Strides for Breast Cancer. They want to provide anything that will empower women and men, supporting their mind, body, and spirit while bringing a smile to their face when they need it most.

Each item is thoughtfully curated, with many of them handcrafted by Karen herself. She’s known as the “maker” of the sisters.

“It’s a family thing, for sure,” Jeanine said. She added that they also have a retail spot at Hidden Gems Boutique in The Shops at Highland Village. “Karen’s daughter just started high school, so she helps with the handmade items, too. Kathy’s daughter does modeling for us since Kathy does all the photos. My little one, she’s 11 but is already helping with the email lists, and my oldest helps with our social media photography.”

With so many giving hands helping out, there’s no end in sight to what LoveHerHugHer can do. Last Christmas, they partnered with Kansas City-based b-present, an organization focused on young adults with cancer. And because of that relationship, they were able to gift 75 boxes to young adults who couldn’t be home for Christmas. Recently, LoveHerHugHer connected with Texas Oncology in Flower Mound, Lewisville, and Carrollton. This month, folks can purchase a cancer care package for $50 and donate it directly to Texas Oncology to brighten a survivor’s day.

Their mission is simple: bring comfort and well-being to a survivor’s mind, body, and spirit while at the same time answering the question, “What can I do to help?”

“We see the panic in the written notes we get. It will be things like, ‘My sister was just diagnosed’ or “My mother is battling breast cancer.’ You feel that empathy for them because you’ve been there and know what that’s like,” Jeanine said. “To guide and route them in a positive direction is such a wonderful gift for us.”

One note, in particular, really hits home.

“Just received the sweetest box from y’all,” one recipient shared. “What a wonderful ministry these ladies have going! It had a coloring book and pencils, socks, a scarf and sleeping mask, peppermint essential oils and peppermint tea, a goals journal with a fancy pen, and some snacks. All very sweet and thoughtful. It’s hard to convey just how much your thoughts and prayers mean when faced with this difficult walk. I know God is listening to every one of you. I’ve seen so many sweet blessings in unexpected ways since all of this has started, and if Jesus wasn’t here with me through the thick and thin, I’d have missed those blessings and not seen them for what they are! What a comfort He is. And what a comfort you are for caring for me and Matt.”

For this loving sister trio, it’s all in a day’s work — and a life of being there for others on their most difficult journeys.

If you’d like to learn more about LoveHerHugHer, visit loveherhugher.com. You can also directly donate to Texas Oncology or purchase a care box for your survivor.

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