By Katie Reynolds
When Denell Falk initially got lumps on the side of her neck at the end of 8th grade, her parents told her they were probably just swollen lymph nodes resulting from stress. After waiting a month, she went into the doctor. Because the lumps did not hurt, the doctor did a biopsy. He found Hodgkin’s disease, or cancer of the lymphatic tissue. For the next couple of months, Denell underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Falk, heading into her junior year at The Bishop’s School, is now a cancer survivor; but what she didn’t know could have killed her. It is now her mission to educate teenagers about cancer.
She and her friend Kate Noble have just started a company called Iopeneyes, in which they sell T-shirts to raise money for cancer and diabetes awareness and research.
Falk says she hopes the eye logo will aid in cancer education. “I want teenagers to become more aware to signs of having cancer, and aware of their bodies.”
Falk’s colleague Noble was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes when she was 1 and 1/2 years old and has become accustomed to life with diabetes. She wears an insulin pump, checks her blood sugar six to 10 times a day, and eats a low carb and sugar diet. Her message is a little different than Falk’s. “I want people to know that even when you get diabetes, you can still do everything you want to do,” Noble said.
The girls, who met in 5th grade, came up with the idea for the company two Christmases ago, and began to draw designs. Denell’s two twin sisters and Noble’s sister helped to brainstorm the name of the company. Two years later, they have taken out a small loan and are ready to begin.
The American Apparel tank-tops, in white, green, blue and brown, have an eye logo on the bottom, designed by Noble and Falk. Each one has a hang tag that aids in awareness by telling the girls’ stories.
They are selling each tank top for $20. Ten percent of the proceeds will go towards Iacocca Foundation, which works towards a cure for diabetes. Another 10 percent will go towards Children’s Hospital and Falk’s oncologist, Dr. Michael Link of Stanford University, to help them in cancer research.
It all began last Saturday, Aug. 18 with a trunk show where they debuted the tank tops to their friends. The event went well. The first day, they sold 192 tank tops. “The trunk show was a success and really fun - it was our first event where we have told people about our company, our story, and showed our tank tops, so it definitely taught us a lot,” Falk said.
This is just the beginning for these ladies. Noble wants to go into the fashion industry after college and is also interested in event planning. Falk wants to earn a law degree and run her parents’ car dealerships.
In the midst of all of their plans, they are excitedly pursuing the expansion of Iopeneyes. Falk said, “We got such positive feedback from our friends that we have decided to set up a day at school to sell them to our classmates.” Although they are mostly marketing to teenagers now, the girls hope to expand to kids and adults later.
For more information on the company contact the girls at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their Web site at