Some kids idolize comic book heroes, others look up to pop stars and athletes. I hope my daughter looks up to someone like Jordan Harouche, founder and CEO of JZips. While battling cancer himself, Jordan came up with the idea of starting a nonprofit to provide shirts designed with zippers that make access to a child's mediport easier.
Jordan, along with his mom, Jodi Harouche, co-founder and president of JZips, share some touching stories of how their shirts help children going through their own cancer battles.
A Simple Shirt Can Make a Big Difference
Jordan is changing how children with mediports experience their cancer treatment. He's also, with this simple act of providing a "normal" shirt with zippers, stepping into their experience to let them know they aren't alone.
One mom told Jodi and Jordan that her son needed six nurses to hold him down during his mediport access, but the shirt changed everything. Thanks to the easy zipper design, that young boy was able to unzip his shirt to allow access to his port on his own. It helped him say, "This is okay now because I have control."
Though some families understandably want to keep their experience close to home, others openly share about how the shirts make an impact. These are just a few of the stories that show how the JZips organization is making a difference.
A mediport, or port-a-cath, is a small medical device implanted under the skin to protect the veins during cancer treatment. It's accessed during treatment and often requires the patient to change. JZips makes that process more comfortable and eliminates the need to change.
Ellie Has One Less Thing to Worry About
JZips recipient Ellie speaks to one of the goals of the foundation: empowering children to feel more in control during their treatments. She said, "Getting dressed to go to the clinic is so much easier. I don't have to wonder if the neckline is stretchy or if there is room to access. I can continuously wear my shirt and don't have to get undressed."
She also shared: "I love the compliments from the child life specialists and nurses."
It's a Shirt That Stands for Bravery
"He associates the shirt with being brave," Jordan said of a young boy who still wears his shirt in remission. Jodi and Jordan hear often of how children never want to take their shirts off, wear them to their first day of school, and continue to wear them with pride when their treatment is finished.
Jace Gets Joy From a Shirt He Loves
One look at sweet little Jace and you can see the empowerment that these chemo shirts provide for children battling cancer. His mom shared, "Thank you so much for my son's JZip shirt. It has been so helpful and made it so much easier at his chemo appointments when accessing his port. And he absolutely loves that it's Minecraft!" Being able to wear a shirt displaying your favorite movie or game is a simple joy JZips gives back to kids.
Parents Are Reacting With ALL CAPS
"My son's JZips shirt is AMAZING!! It makes life SO much easier!" Lincoln's mom raved about how the shirt has impacted her son's treatment journey. Helping kids is goal #1, but alleviating even a little bit of stress for their parents is just as important.
Tommy Gets a Sense of Pride & Positivity
Tommy, proudly sporting his Star Wars shirt, highlights how the shirts impact families during treatment. His parents said, "Thanks so much JZips for the coolest zipper shirt! Our son loved having his shirt that not only makes accessing his port and glidepath so easy but is super fun to wear with its Star Wars theme!" A simple shirt helps Tommy and many other children walk with their heads held high.
Jordan said the friends and family surrounding him really made the difference during his own cancer treatment, showing how important even small actions can be for someone undergoing a cancer diagnosis.
Size-Ups Are a Reason to Celebrate
When JZips receives emails from parents requesting a size-up, everyone rejoices. "We love size-ups, it makes us happy," Jodi said. A size-up is a sign that a child is growing, maybe even thriving. It's a sweet reminder that a child is still here, fighting, and finding comfort along the way. Jodi put it so well when she said "That's what kids are supposed to do. Kids are supposed to grow."
Jodi and Jordan also recalled Anthony, a boy they met at the age of three when he was still in treatment for cancer. Now, he's no longer a baby boy but a thriving six-year-old in remission. This story helps us see that it isn't just the T-shirts that JZips provides; it's a relationship with every child and family. A way to extend a friendly hand and assure someone that they don't walk alone through their treatment.
Jasna Was Inspired to Give Back
JZips impacts entire families too. Jasna Tuli is an example — she's carrying on the mission of helping other kids after seeing how the shirts helped her brother face cancer treatment. She loves to get involved in collecting T-shirts to transform for other children with cancer.
"The T-shirt drive is important to me because the JZips shirts significantly eased my brother's chemotherapy experience, inspiring and motivating me to support other children and adults facing similar challenges," she explained.
The Sobering Reality: Children Who Pass
When asked about JZips stories that stand out, Jodi said, "Sometimes it's the kids that pass." Jordan went on to speak of one child whose journey with cancer didn't lead to remission, rather her parents had to say goodbye. But while wearing her JZips shirt, she was empowered and comforted during her treatment. Through unimaginable sadness, her mom still thanked Jordan and Jodi for making her treatment better, even in a small way.
Jodi remembers the young girl who had loved her Minnie Mouse shirt but never had the experience of sizing up her JZip. Those are the stories that stand out most to Jodi and Jordan. Stories of easing some of the discomfort and giving even a small amount of power back to a child, no matter the outcome of their story.
Jordan and Jodi: Fighting Back and Helping Others
Jordan, a humble, inspiring, and down-to-earth young man, was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 when he was only 15. With the help of his mother and grandmother, Jordan started JZips during his treatment, and it's now a thriving nonprofit organization that partners with 36 hospitals across the U.S.
Jodi described Jordan's cancer diagnosis as if "the world literally stopped and it went black." Yet seeing him help others and use his story to make an impact became an opportunity for her to watch her son grow and continue to face the challenges that cancer brings.
Jodi now guides his vision for JZips and uses her own expertise in communications to show the world why JZips is such a valuable resource for children and parents. Together, she and Jordan are changing lives.
Jodi also reminds families it's okay not to share their private battles. "It's not for everybody," Jodi said in reference to sharing your story. "It's okay not to want to do something for others" because everyone handles their experience differently and "it's important to be understanding and respectful."
Making an Immediate Impact: Help in the Moment
Jordan, in the midst of his own struggle and discomfort, sought to ease the discomfort for others. "Relate to someone in the moment," is Jordan's advice for using your own story to impact the world.
He points out that we don't have to relate to one another just because we have similar experiences, but rather because we can find a way to see one another in the moment. Relating to someone, even when you may not understand everything they are going through, is the first step in changing their experience for the better.
Jodi pointed out that many people love to donate to cancer research, which is obviously very important. What JZips is trying to do is meet the kids where they are in the moment. Ease their pain today. These shirts provide practical, immediate help to children facing childhood cancer.
Cancer Is a Lifelong Club, But Every Story Makes a Difference
Jordan shared a sobering line that he speaks to often: "Cancer is a club. Once you're a part of the club you're a part of it for life." But Jordan chose to look toward the other side of his cancer treatment saying, "You need to look past the situation you're in and see what the future will hold." For Jordan, the future held creating a product that would meet a practical and emotional need for children and parents facing childhood cancer.
In recounting his story and being asked what it feels like to be a hero for so many kids now, Jordan humbly stated that the real heroes are the doctors, nurses, and caregivers who make cancer treatment possible and comfortable.
We are all able to make a difference in various ways. As Jordan has shown us, no two stories are the same. As you're seeing your own story unfold, maybe you also feel that deep desire to be a voice, a beacon of hope, or a practical solution to a problem many people don't understand.