Design students and faculty partner to help kids with cancer

onesies for infant cancer patients

Cancer Care Foundation MN and Professor Lucy Dunne’s technical design studio class collaborated to create a comfortable garment for infants undergoing cancer treatment at Children’s Minnesota. The outcome? A onesie with pre-designed pockets for easy access to treatment ports.
Founded three years ago by University of Minnesota alum Mike Tulkki, Cancer Care Foundation MN’s mission is to bring comfort to cancer care. The foundation started after Tulkki saw a story about University of Minnesota football player Casey O’Brien ’20 and his ongoing battle with osteosarcoma. “His story really struck me, particularly how he would go straight from practice to chemo treatments,” says Tulkki. “That’s what inspired our group to start making T-shirts with pre-designed port openings for people undergoing chemo treatment.”
Through this initial project, Tulkki began to work with others in the healthcare space, including Children’s Minnesota. It was this connection that served as the spark for the foundation’s most recent project, a onesie for infant cancer patients, and led to a partnership with the College of Design’s Apparel Design program.
Working closely with healthcare providers at Children’s Minnesota, apparel students designed two different onesies, one with long sleeves and one with short sleeves, as part of the functional clothing class during the 2022 spring semester. The next fall, students in the technical design class (a class focused on how clothing products are developed and manufactured) picked up the project, taking the designs and producing a small run of both designs.
“We designed the pockets in the onesies to help prevent the children from tugging on their port or the cords, which hurt when pulled,” says apparel design student Jaden Evenson. “I hope this project will help reduce parents’ frustration and pain by eliminating some of the difficulties they encounter.”
Evenson has worked on a wide range of projects throughout her academic career at the College of Design, but this one stands out. “This project is different because it will provide an instant positive impact on the lives of the people who will use the onesies,” she says.
This story was adapted from the College of Design.