Meet Valley’s Spring 2016 Self-Improvement Section Opener — Alison Willie!

Photo by Vanessa Rican Feng

Walk into McLanahan’s downtown, and you’ll see adorable handmade scarves with little orange ribbons attached for sale. Sure, they are cute and would be a nice addition on any cold State College day, but the meaning behind them is so much more.

Senior civil engineering major Alison Willie, along with her family and close friends, knit each and every scarf by hand. The proceeds from the scarves go directly to kidney cancer research and awareness.

“I came up with the idea in 8th grade,” says Willie. “I made 17 scarves to take to Lift for Life the next summer that were sold for donation only. All of them were gone by the end of the event, and two even went for $100 donations! So, we decided it was a good idea to continue.”

Supporting in the fight against kidney cancer is a cause that Willie and her family hold closely to their hearts. The disease had personally affected her family, and they wanted to find something they could do to help make a difference.

“It was really our way to make something good out of dealing with cancer. Since my dad and my grandpa both had kidney cancer, it was something we could all contribute to in order to raise money and awareness,” says Willie.

Since Willie is graduating in May, she hopes to sell out of the remaining 80 or so scarves. Every dollar they can raise is important. However, raising funds for a deserving cause isn’t the only thing Willie loves about this charity.

“My favorite part is talking to our customers – people who own one of my original scarves, Penn State fans wanting to help our cause, and most importantly, other kidney cancer families,” says Willie.

Putting your heart into something you’re passionate about is key to making it a success. For anyone aspiring to start a philanthropic organization of their own, Willie has some words of advice.

“Definitely pick a cause that means a lot to you.”

Head to McLanahan’s to purchase your own scarf for $20, and make sure to “like” the Willie Family Penn State Scarves Facebook page for updates!