Cancer survivor finds fashionable way to give back

March 6, 2011 4:35:20 PM PST
Yali Derman is a college nursing student, a successful fashion designer and a two-time cancer survivor.

At 20 years old, Derman has found a way to give back to Children's Memorial Hospital for helping to save her life.

It's a celebration of life that Yali Derman is making sure gets "carried on."

"There's a way to feel empowered by your challenging experiences, to convert that negative situation into a positive one," Derman said.

On Sunday, the Highland Park resident debuted Yali's Carry On Collection. The designer totes were inspired by Derman's battle with cancer.

"Cancer is a family disease and a family's journey as well," said Derman's mother Dr. Carol Rosenberg.

The two-time cancer survivor was first diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5, and although it went into remission, the disease returned when she was 9 -- leading to a bone marrow transplant.

"Your rug is pulled out from underneath you when you are diagnosed, but it's jerked out from underneath you when you have a reoccurance," said Derman's physician Dr. Reggie Duerst.

Her brother Benji was the donor that saved her life.

"I just gave her more time to do what she wants to do, with the bags she's been making and the lives she has changed," Benji Derman said.

It was during a month-long isolation after the operation that art remained a part of Derman's battle as the nurses who cared for her at Children's Memorial Hospital encouraged their young patient to turn hardship into healing.

Sunday's event raised money for the hospital's family support services and the volunteer group Kindness Is Doing Something Special for Kids, or K.I.D.S.S. for Kids.

"These family services programs we support, it's what gives the kids a chance to continue to be kids," said Rob Feldgreber with K.I.D.S.S. for Kids.

Derman thanked them Sunday afternoon with her signature tote bag.

She teamed up with designer Kate Spade with the help of the Make A Wish Foundation.

Adorned by a peacock in a paisley pattern which represents the bandanas cancer patients often wear during their treatment, the purse features 18 brilliant colors symbolizing a quest for life.

"Saks is really committed on a local level to give back to the community, and this is just one way that we've been able to do that," said Britt Jackson with Saks Fifth Avenue.

Derman's totes go for $85 -- $55 of that goes directly to Kindness Is Doing Something Special for Kids, or the K.I.D.S.S. for Kids charity.

The funds will be used for an art and special projects room in the hospital's new children's oncology wing.

Saks Fifth Avenue stores in downtown Chicago and in Philadelphia near where Derman goes to school will also carry the bags.

As a bonus, the retailer gave 5 percent of Sunday's event proceeds back to charity.