13-Year-Old Helps Her Mom — and Other Women — Fight Breast Cancer One Coffee Cup at a Time
When 13-year-old Jordan Phillips of Athens, Ohio, wants something done, she does it herself. If she looks in her closet and doesn’t have anything she wants to wear – she makes a new outfit. Last week, she sewed herself a ketchup packet Halloween costume.
She sews pillows, headbands, skirts, quilts and in the summer of 2015, she started sewing her own coffee sleeves.
“It’s made out of fabric and there’s a little button on it and an elastic that hooks onto the button. That way it’s adjustable too. It stretches more so that you can put it on larger cups,” Jordan tells PEOPLE.
Jordan’s take-charge attitude came into play after her mother, Nicole J. Phillips, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015.
“I was sad and scared. I didn’t know what to do,” Jordan says of her mom’s diagnosis. “I just knew that I had to help in some way.”
Then 11, Jordan helped her mom with groceries, dishes, laundry and taking care of her two younger brothers.
Then in August 2015, she told her mom she wanted to sell coffee sleeves as a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“I was three days after surgery and I said, ‘I don’t have anything to give you,’ ” says Nicole, 42, a freelance writer and former anchor for Fox News in Fargo. “We’re already spending a lot of money to pay for breast cancer bills, so we can’t write you a big check. I said, ‘You’re on your own.’ ”
Nicole took to Facebook on August 12, 2015, to post the message: “My daughter is going to make a brilliant businesswoman someday, but today, she’s simply the best daughter ever… and a pretty great seamstress too! I hope you’ll support her cause!” She then linked to a Komen Race for the Cure page, which said that for a suggested donation of $5, Jordan would sew a custom coffee sleeve.
The next morning, Jordan had $500 worth of donations. Two years later, Cozys for the Cure is a LLC and has raised about $18,000 for Komen.
This fall, more than 200,000 Cozys for the Cure are being sold at nearly 1,550 Walmarts across the country.
“I don’t like to sit on the sidelines and watch something happen — I want to be in there, in the action, helping to fight,” says Jordan, whose father, Saul Phillips, is head coach of Ohio University men’s basketball team.
Jordan isn’t individually sewing each Walmart order, they’re being manufactured by Komen national partner, Greensource, a Seattle-based apparel company. Each coffee sleeve sells for $1.97 — and 35 cents of each sale is donated to Komen.
“Jordan’s story is extraordinary and we’re excited to bring a new and unique product to our shelves that can make an impact on the mission to end breast cancer,” said Becky Blake, a senior buyer for Walmart.
After Jordan read on Komen’s website that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, much of the money she raised has gone toward paying for free mammograms.
“She would do the math, it was roughly $100 to pay for one mammogram. If one in eight women are diagnosed and I paid $800 for eight mammograms, that’s one in eight. I saved one woman’s life. As she saw the tally build and build and build, she’d say, ‘Mom, I saved 11 women’s lives!’ And that was very real to her,” says Nicole. “She made it very concrete in her brain.”
Wanda Schaad, 56, of Belpre, Ohio, is one of the women who attributes her life being saved by the money Jordan raised. Schaad skipped her mammogram in 2015, because her insurance changed and she couldn’t afford one. But the next year, she received a free mammogram Jordan’s fundraising paid for, and was diagnosed with breast cancer – and thanks to early intervention — she is now cancer free.
“That’s what saved me,” Schaad says. “I wouldn’t have gone again.”
Jordan is now in the 8th grade. She runs track and cross country, and is obsessed with Disney World (she’s been 15 times and can’t wait to go again). She has moved her company to a larger office space – she convinced her brother to switch with her, and let her have the bigger bedroom!
She and her mother, who is now cancer free, are closer than ever. They watch Ellen together and play their favorite song, Rachel Platton’s “Stand By You,” five times a day.
“I wanted to help mom,” Jordan says. “She’s my best friend.”