This past Sunday morning at church, we worked on a service project during our Adult Education hour. The project was a sock drive for the Ally League, an entity created by my sister back in 2019 to show support for my daughter Ally who was fighting glioblastoma. Ally was a great kid, a lover of all things comic book related (preferring DC over Marvel, of course) and a warrior. She remains the strongest person I know. And her optimism, despite a harrowing diagnosis, continues to inspire many, myself included. After Ally died in May 2020, the Ally League decided to ask for donations for colorful, patterned socks to give to kids at Children’s Mercy Hospital. You see, Ally loved socks, loved kids, and loved helping others. She would be thrilled to see that we celebrate her life by donating socks to kids fighting illness just like she did.
But back to the project. As we were separating and counting socks, I was asked to speak about the Ally League. I hadn’t prepared anything, although I do better speaking off the cuff anyway. I’m a teacher and writer, so finding the right words is usually not a problem. But I was feeling particularly tender this morning, and when I was asked to share about the Ally League and our sock drive, I cried. I had to pause and collect myself. I tried to convey the meaning of the Ally League and why it is special to me, but I don’t think I did it justice. Instead, I came home and decided to write about it. Reflect. Take time to say what I need to say in the way I want to say it. Here goes.
In August of 2019, my sister created an Ally League Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/allyleagueforever and thus the Ally League was born. The Ally League was a place where I could go to share information. It was a place where we could rally the troops in supporting Ally’s fight. We first used this page to form a team for Head for the Cure, an organization that raises funds to fight brain cancer.
Head for the Cure 2019 was the absolute best. Ally was still with us, radiating hope and positivity, inspiring her tribe. We had a crazy number of folks — church friends, neighbors, my own friend group, family, Ally’s besties — all come out in support. Our youth pastor Chuck brought communion, and those of us who wanted to lined up to partake before the race. Ally was in a wheelchair, and I was fully prepared to push her the 3.1 miles. I was grateful for the opportunity to raise money toward this horrible disease and honor my sweet girl.
Before the Head for the Cure race, we hugged, celebrated Ally, silently cursed brain cancer, and surrounded Ally with love and hope and joy. Unfortunately, right before the race, a rain storm rolled in. Instead of walking the race, we all took shelter. My family and several friends headed to Einstein Bros to enjoy a bagel and a little fellowship. (After all, Ally did love her carbs.) I’m not sure the walk itself was important that year. It was the gathering of people who loved Ally, the circle of support, that mattered the most. This was when the Ally League was formed. And though Ally is gone, our group remains.
In May 2020, after a long and brave battle, Ally succumbed to glioblastoma. I was shattered. And yet, I wanted to do something positive. I wanted to honor Ally’s legacy of love and kindness by gathering crazy, “jazzy” socks in Ally’s memory. These socks would go to other kids who were hospitalized — kids who needed a bit of hope. My initial goal was to collect 200 pairs of socks. We ended up collecting nearly 4,000 pairs. To me, each pair of socks we received represented a deep love for Ally and for our family.
Fast forward to 2022. The Ally League held our 2nd sock drive. (I figure we’ll shoot for doing this every two years.) We ended up with 163 pairs collected at my school with an additional 88 pairs being collected by my friends at St. Andrew Christian Church. That’s a total of 251 pairs of socks.
This sock drive matters to me for a number of reasons. First of all, Ally loved her socks — Harry Potter socks, mismatched socks, caped superhero socks. Crazy socks exemplify Ally’s bright and quirky personality. This sock drive also represents hope. Each pair of socks could potentially be a bright spot in some child’s day — some child stuck in a dreary hospital needing a little pick-me-up. It does not matter to me whether we gather 300 pairs or 4,000 pairs of socks each time we hold our sock drive. What does matter to me is that we keep Ally’s spirit alive, we celebrate her strength and positivity, and we continue to help other children who are hospitalized and fighting illness.
The 2020 Stats
- We donated 300 pairs of socks to Children’s Mercy Hospital in November of 2020.
- We donated 130 pairs of socks to the Ronald McDonald house in Kansas City, Missouri.
- We donated 30 pairs of socks to KU Pediatrics.
- We donated 250 pairs of socks to Wesley Children’s Hospital in Wichita, Kansas.
- We donated 810 pairs of socks to Mission Southside in Olathe, Kansas.
- We donated 1,532 pairs of socks to the Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit called Kuzidi. Kuzidi is in the process of creating care kits for displaced children, and there will be a pair of socks as well as other comfort items in these kits.
- At Christmas-time, we gave socks to students and teachers at the school where I teach, so around 170 socks for students and 40 socks for teachers and support staff. (My school is a Title 1 school, and my students were thrilled with this unexpected gift.)
- We donated 150 pairs of socks to a teacher at Children’s Mercy Hospital who planned to personally pass out socks to her students who were hospitalized.
- We donated 482 more pairs of socks to Kuzidi.
- The first Ally League Sock Drive (from 2020 – 2021, as socks continued to trickle in for months) totalled 3,994 socks. Wow!
The 2022 Stats
- Edgerton Elementary donated 163 pairs of socks. These came from my co-workers and even a few former parents.
- St. Andrew Christian Church, my church home, donated 88 pairs of socks, then my church family helped me pin all 251 pairs of socks. (For each pair of socks we donate, we include a short note about Ally’s life.)
- AMR of Kansas City held a sock drive. Their socks have not yet been counted.
- I intend to donate these socks to Children’s Mercy Hospital and to the Ronald McDonald House sometime in November.
One Last Thing
Here’s a link to a story about our very first donation. Sock Drive 2020