After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010, Alex Currie realized in her subsequent treatments that the term "cancer care" just screamed cancer.
Currie understood from her own experience that cancer survivors want to mix in with other people. She also knew that cancer is a "very lonely, lonely disease" and anyone who goes through it needs a "tremendous amount of support.
But Currie knew the disease would not define who she is, recounting her favorite quote from the movie "The Shawshank Redemption": "Get busy living, or get busy dying."
And so the longtime online retailer and recent transplant to Fairfield -- where she and her family moved 10 months ago from London -- came up with a way to use her strengths to support her fellow cancer survivors: by introducing crafting as therapy.
A Little Square and the Pink Pom-Pom Project
Currie, the owner of the shop A Little Square -- which opened at 1981 Post Road (above Robeks) in late October -- founded the charity the Pink Pom-Pom Project as a way to join cancer survivors and their friends and family together through crafts.
The Pink Pom-Pom Project is multi-faceted, but the goal is to introduce crafting as a form of therapy for cancer patients and their support networks. The results of the crafting -- ranging from pillows to scarves to quilts -- are donated to cancer survivors.
Currie founded the Pink Pom-Pom Project while she was still living London, undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments for her own diagnosis.
She made crafts that helped her as a cancer patient – such as "dream pillows," small pillows filled with lavender and hops to help lull her to sleep (which was difficult during chemotherapy). She met other cancer survivors through "Stitch & B*tch" events, where patients would gather to craft and spend time with other patients.
From Stitch & B*tch to VOTY (Volunteer of the Year)
Currie also began to blog about her experience, host her own Stitch & B*tch sessions, and gave lectures on being a cancer survivor. Upon relocating to Fairfield, the Pink Pom-Pom Project already had four solid programs in place that benefit cancer patients and their support networks:
- Stitch & B*tch sessions, which Currie now hosts in A Little Square and in conjunction with other cancer support groups and organizations, like the Connecticut Challenge;
- Commission Impossible, for which a local artist is commissioned to donate a piece of their work to be auctioned at a cancer support fundraiser event;
- Volunteer of the Year (VOTY), an award that Currie was recognized with in London for her work in creating the Pink Pom-Pom Project that she chose to continue in the United States: those who come to Stitch & B*tch sessions or learn to craft under Currie's supervision create a square that will become part of a 30-square quilt given to a person deemed "Volunteer of the Year." It takes about a hundred hours to put together one quilt, according to Currie, between the time to create the 30 squares and the time it takes a professional quilter to put the pieces together. The next quilt to be given to a VOTY is being created by breast cancer survivors from the Connecticut Challenge Center for Survivorship in Southport;
- The Pink Pom-Pom Project Party Boxes, which contain crafting projects for children ranging from 5-7 years of age, 8-10 years, 11-13 years, and 14 and older. Each project is "age-appropriate," according to Currie, and takes four to six weeks to complete. Once the project is finished, its creator must give the craft to a cancer patient.
Before Currie left London, the Pink Pom-Pom Project resulted in almost 500 handmade hats, scarves, and Pink Pom-Pom Project pillows (featured in the photo gallery) gifted to cancer patients in 2011 alone.
A Little Square also hosts on behalf of the Pink Pom-Pom Project "Crafting: Making a Difference" for children ages five and up. Kids make hats, pillows, scarves and quilts for cancer patients in the community and outstanding volunteers around town, according to Currie.
'You Can Do Anything If You Put Your Mind to It'
Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from sales at A Little Square -- products are sold both online and in store -- go toward funding the Pink Pom-Pom Project's programs and materials.
Currie described A Little Square as a "modern day general store" -- a "one-stop shop" for children's clothes, toys, gifts, and lifestyle items. Currie designed a few of the featured collections and also hosts collections created by her sister, Shepherd Homan, a Dallas-based entrepreneur.
Half of the store is dedicate to merchandise and the other half provides a space for crafting.
"The attitude I want to bring here -- a fun atmosphere, where you can do anything if you put your mind to it. That's the message here," Currie said.
That message is all the more clear when survivors and their supporters are gathered to bond and create.
"When you put people together for a good cause, they just roll up their sleeves. It's a good fit here [in Fairfield]," Currie said.
To view a schedule of upcoming Pink Pom-Pom Project (PPPP) events, visit the website. To learn more about A Little Square and the collections sold at the store, visit http://www.alittlesquare.com/. To learn more about Alex Currie's journey from diagnosis to present, check out her blog stayabreast.co.uk.