Buffalo Grove teen, mom launch Hope’s Closet
Buffalo Grove resident Dahlia Ronen adjusts the spinal brace that her daugheter Hope Schneider wears to address her scoliosis. Together, they have started "Hope's Closet" to provie shirts that work with the brace. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 7, 2012 10:38AM
BUFFALO GROVE — At 13 years old, Hope Schneider has been made fun of a bit more than the average young teen.
Living with a genetic disorder that forces her to wear a metallic brace around her torso in an effort to keep her spine aligned has made her an easier target.
Schneider responds with this: She has already founded a business, and has now moved on to additional philanthropic endeavors. Some of those who have ridiculed her many not yet know what those last two words mean.
But Schneider speaks candidly about her situation: She wishes she doesn’t have an excuse to become a champion of scoliosis.
“They’re so lucky,” she said of her peers. “They have a straight spine.”
Schneider’s spine has four curves in it, one bent at a 37-degree angle that for a time nearly required a risky surgery. She combats this with a brace that looks a bit like a cage wrapped around her hips, waist and chest.
But that brace, by design, puts a lot of pressure on her skin, and whatever shirt she is wearing under it. The pressure has chewed through plenty, and plenty more have either not protected her skin well enough or simply looked too unfashionable for any teenager to wear.
“I was like ‘Why don’t people make clothing for scoliosis bracing?’” Schneider recalled.
Her mother, Dahlia Ronen, had no answer, but realized that she did have an opportunity. Along with friends Simona Citron and Limor Shoval, Ronen founded Hope’s Closet, a clothing company that exclusively makes trendy shirts for girls with spinal deformities.
“When we needed to find shirts to go over the brace, that was a veritable nightmare,” Ronen said. “That planted a seed in my head.”
Hope’s Closet markets exclusively to teenage girls, because scoliosis impacts females eight times more than boys, and the brace can only make a difference while the body is growing.
Schneider currently wears her brace 20 hours a day, but said she expects to only need it for another six months. She added that she expects Hope’s Closet to continue long after her treatment for scoliosis has ended; and she also wants to begin a foundation with the company’s profits. The goal, she explained, is to help families in need afford scoliosis screenings and treatment.
But the objective for right now, she said, is to keep girls in their braces. Schneider said some ditch them, fearing the scorn they draw, and damage their spines in the process. By producing something that will help scoliosis victims both feel and look good, Hope’s Closet aims to contribute to their well-being.
“It’ll make them wear their brace more,” Hope said. “I’d always feel bad for the kid that I’m not helping.”