This month, we’re excited to spotlight one of our current grantees, Zip With Us! Zip With Us donates custom medical access Zipshirts that accommodate ports, picc lines, tubes, and catheters for pediatric cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. These Zipshirts help reduce fear and allow children to remain comfortable with their clothes on during treatment.
Angela Degan and her family founded Zip With Us, Inc. in 2018, after their 2 year old son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) while they were on a family vacation. For the next 3.5 years of hospital visits and chemotherapy, he had a "tubie" (his name for the medi-port device) implanted in his chest for frequent blood draws and infusions. For kids with port devices, hospital staff insert an approximately 1 inch needle through the skin and into the device, in plain sight of the child. This scary and painful experience happens to 75,000 new kids every year.
Since 2020, with your help, Love Your Melon has provided $30,000 in funding to Zip With Us, which has helped their organization create and send Zipshirts to children at hospitals all over the country.
This important mission would be impossible without the help of dedicated staff and volunteers. Below, you’ll learn more about Diane or “Miss Di”, the Head of Production at Zip With Us, who is a true hero in the fight against pediatric cancer.
This story was shared from the perspective of Angela, Executive Director of Zip With Us.
We met Di in 2016 when we first moved back to Pennsylvania from Miami. She lived a couple houses over in the same culdesac and was so warm and kind from the get go. Thatcher was diagnosed almost immediately after we moved into the neighborhood and Di showed us the kind of compassion that is typically reserved for family and longtime friends, showing up to check in, sending cards and goodies.
Di worked at the local preschool and as our little guy worked his way through treatment, Di offered to help with homeschooling. Because of his extreme lack of an immune system and often generally not feeling well, she was incredibly careful and would never come if she had a cold or had been around anyone sick. At the time, Thatch was totally obsessed with Avengers, particularly Hulk and Di would carefully curate all her lessons with fun characters and activities that would make him smile. Her kindness and compassion were profound.
During that time, we started Zip With Us (2017/2018), which quickly grew from a small operation with a few shirts going out the door at a time, to a full time, multi-hospital operation. As time passed and Thatcher finished his treatment, Di started to lend a hand with the organization. Almost immediately, that turned into a nearly full-time endeavor as hospital and individual orders were up by multiples of 10.
As Di continued to love on our family and to thrive in the Zip with Us work environment, her personal life took an emotional turn. Di's father received his own diagnosis that transformed her and her family's lives forever. Di quickly got one of his favorite shirts transformed into a ZipShirt for his treatments and arranged her schedule to spend as much true quality time as possible with her Dad and family.
Many years have passed and Di fits in as if the puzzle of Zip With Us was originally made with a "Miss Di" (as we all lovingly call her) piece already in the box. She runs all of the shirt production. She processes over 70 pediatric hospitals, thousands of individual custom orders, ecommerce orders, and liaises with the seamstresses as well. She is like a well-oiled machine that never misses a beat and knows where everything is all the time. It's bananas! We'd be totally lost without her. She teaches us every day, and leads by example by being an extraordinary mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and mentor. To know Di is to absolutely love her. She is the kindest, most thoughtful, loving, genuine, hilarious, courteous, adventurous, life-loving, practical, generous, hard-working, dedicated, compassionate, faithful and loyal human. Zip With Us is honored to get to work with Di and yes, we know we're spoiled.
To learn more about Zip With Us, click here