Make-A-Wish alumni return to grant wishes in Orange County and Inland Empire
Brothers Keane and Shaun Veran launched OURA, a wellness company, on the day Keane was declared a cancer survivor in 2017. But the idea for the business started nine years prior.
At 10 years old, Keane was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“One of the biggest things that my family and I realized was how dirty things can be — everything from hats to your clothes,” Keane said. “Being immunosuppressed means that you’re more susceptible to any and all types of bacteria that can lead to infections or a one way trip to the ICU.”
When Keane’s hair started falling out during treatment, he searched for a machine-washable or antibacterial hat and realized it wasn’t unavailable in the market. A couple years later, he took a shot at creating a hat with Shaun, who is a microbiologist currently working for one of the COVID-19 test kit suppliers — Zymo Research Corp.
OURA expanded to create facial cleansing products and aprons. The best-selling items in 2020 are face masks.
Shaun said OURA’s antimicrobial technology is different from that of other companies. Instead of coating the products with antimicrobial technology, OURA embeds it into the threads of the fabric allowing the mask to effectively kill 95% viral and bacterial particles after 100 washes. The masks are also available with an optional NIOSH-approved N95 filter.
The company was working on creating masks before the coronavirus hit the United States but accelerated its plans to start selling masks by April.
OURA’s antibacterial hats are closer to the heart of the company’s social-impact mission. For every 1,000 hats sold, the company grants a wish for a kid from Orange County or the Inland Empire through Make-A-Wish. The company logo of a crane (a design also embedded on the hats) was inspired by the Japanese legend of folding 1,000 origami cranes to receive a wish.
“We always knew that we wanted to make the company and be able to give back,” Shaun said.
The impact Keane’s cancer diagnosis had on the family, along with their experience with Make-A-Wish, influenced their business model and volunteer work.
In 2011, Keane’s wish was granted. He and his family took a trip to meet President Barack Obama in Washington D.C.
“It took two years for the wish to be granted but even during that period of waiting for my wish to come true, it gave me something to hope for and look forward to,” Keane said. “It really helped me just get through the treatments and the chemotherapy.”
That time period was difficult for Keane’s family too.
“I felt so scared and nervous at the time,” Shaun said. “It’s not just in that one moment. It stretches through all the way to the point of remission. We had to make a lot of changes and sacrifices as a family to get through that time. Make-A-Wish was such an incredible breath of fresh air to get away from how frightening treatment could be for someone undergoing cancer.”
Some wishes related to travel may be on indefinite hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the work to grant wishes continues.
Gloria Jetter Crockett, O.C. and Inland Empire Make-a-Wish CEO, said wishes like gifts or virtually meeting people are still taking place.
Make-A-Wish receives funding from events, corporate partners and individual donations. With events canceled, the nonprofit lost over $1 million.
“We need individuals more now than ever because we are still granting wishes. When we come out of COVID and it’s safe, we need to be prepared to grant the wishes that were on hold too,” Crockett said.
The average wish costs about $7,500.
Other than financial donations, Keane became a wish ambassador — speaking on behalf of the nonprofit by telling his story. Shaun became a wish granter, who helps guide families through the entire wish process. He’s guided kids through shopping sprees, trips to Japan and meeting the cast of the “Into the Badlands” TV series.
Make-A-Wish has also amped up its communication with kids who are waiting by sending them messages of hope and support.
“There’s so many of us that are going through a variety of emotions and change,” Crockett said. “To have a critical illness on top of it — we need to make sure that we provide that hope for wish kids and their families now more than ever.”
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