(Jackson, Wyo.) - In 2013, Kathleen Neiley's sister-in-law was diagnosed with her third bout of cancer. Since she lived all the way across the country, Neiley struggled with ways to help her family member feel comforted and loved. Then she had an idea. Neiley sent an email to her family and friends asking for them to write something positive on a T-shirt and send it to her. Family members from all over the country sent in T-shirts, and even the toddler scribbled on one. Neiley sewed all of these T-shirts into a quilt. "I sent her this really big group hug from all of us so that she knows that we are thinking about her," said Neiley. "Her reaction was, ‘I had no idea so many people loved me.’” This was the idea for Full Circle Quilts
which launched this month.
Neiley is a Jackson native who grew up skiing for the local team. She
attended college on the East Coast, met her husband and eventually moved to
Denver. Neiley worked her way up at an investment banking firm from a
secretary to an assistant vice president. Her family eventually bought a
ranch in Mead, Colorado and she took some time off to raise her children.
Neiley has always admired entrepreneurs, so working with her family and
friends to create the quilt for her sister-in-law sparked an idea. She
decided to write up a business plan.
In 2014, Neiley packed up her things and moved back to Jackson. With her
business idea still in the back of her mind, she was pleasantly surprised
to learn of a special class for entrepreneurs called the Start Up Institute
(now called The Startup Intensive).
"The market research phase of the class was the hardest for me," said
Neiley. "We had to go out and talk about our business idea. But people had
really strong and positive reactions to the idea."
“The further I got along, the more I believed in the idea and the more I
believed that I could do it,” she added.
The market research phase is how she met 9-year-old Brianna. During the
2015 St. John's Health Fair, Neiley was approached by Brianna's swim coach.
Brianna had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and her coach wanted to
do something to comfort her. The coach collected signed T-shirts from swim
teams all over the state for the quilt, which was given to Brianna to
comfort her during chemotherapy.
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*Brianna and her quilt. h/t Full Circle Quilts / Pitchengine Communities*
Following the creation of that powerful quilt, Neiley kicked the business
into gear and after a full year's work Full Circle Quilts is officially
Neiley has reviewed numerous studies that prove that a circle of support is
vital for those impacted by cancer, and believes that a crowd-sourced
quilt is the perfect thing to comfort a friend or family member.
"Right now, people are limited by giving things like flowers or candy,"
said Neiley. "And sometimes people [going through cancer] can’t eat much,
or can't have flowers because of the pollen. Flowers also don't last very
“If you have gone through cancer, much of the time you are alone, simply
because people often can’t put their lives on hold to take care of you,"
she added. "But it is just really important for a person’s well-being to
know that they matter and are loved."
Full Circle Quilts is a product and support organization that literally
allows you to give the shirt off your back to support and give warmth to a
loved one going through cancer treatment. Using this idea, she has created
the technology platform to allow easy and effective group participation in
this gift creation.
Mostly, Neiley wants to help people connect to show compassion, caring and
comfort for those experiencing a difficult time.
Learn more at www.fullcirclequilts.com.
*Feature Photo: Kathleen Neiley. h/t David J Swift / Pitchengine