Student supports teens battling cancer through Stockings for Strength

By Marissa Plescia, Staff writer

It was right before leaving for college when Whitney Setterdahl, junior in Business, was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.

She was unsure of whether or not she should go to school knowing this, but decided to go anyway. Setterdahl said those first few months were the hardest.

Instead of focusing on her diagnoses, Setterdahl decided to help others like her. A year ago, she started a charity called Stockings for Strength that provides gifts for teens who have to spend their holidays in the hospital.

“You kind of feel weird, especially as a teenager (at the hospital),” Setterdahl said. “I thought maybe kind of keeping the childhood aspect of it … could be something really comforting and (help them) not feel so foreign and out of place.”

The charity donates to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Setterdahl said her hometown has been a major help in encouraging donations by hosting donation drives at her grade school and high school.

Setterdahl first came up with the idea last year when her mom and friends made t-shirts that said “We fight with Whit” on her one year diagnosis anniversary. The company they ordered the shirts from also gave them $300 for Setterdahl to donate to a charity of her choice.

But she decided to do something different with that money. Instead of donating the money to cancer research, she wanted to help teens battling cancer instead. Because of that, she started Stockings for Strength.

The charity takes both monetary donations and gift donations. Though the charity is called Stockings for Strength, last year they received so many donations that the stockings couldn’t even hold everything. They instead had to upgrade to tote bags.

The bags usually contain an assortment of things, including items like pajamas and games. Setterdahl also tries to make the bags personalized.

Last year they received $3,000 in donations and were able to give 67 bags to inpatients and 20 to outpatients. 

Mayuri Yasuda, junior in LAS, is friends with Setterdahl and helps with Stockings for Strength. She came up with the name and does most of the PR work for the charity. She said Setterdahl is a great person to work with.

“I didn’t know Whitney before she got diagnosed,” Yasuda said. “But when you meet her, you would never know that this happened to her. She just sheds such a positive light on the situation she was put in.”

Yasuda said after getting to know Setterdahl and working with Stockings for Strength, she decided to go to medical school and work in pediatric oncology.

Jessie Smith, junior in Education, is also good friends with Setterdahl, but knew her before she was diagnosed. She said that since her diagnosis, Setterdahl has become more positive and confident in herself.

“I’m just so proud of the way she advocates now and just tries to make a difference for people who are going through things like her and just telling her story,” Smith said. “She’s always somebody who you can lean on. She’s hilarious and goofy. I couldn’t have gone through college without her.”

Whitney said since she was diagnosed, she has become much more positive and gracious of her life. She is now almost done with her treatment.

“It definitely made me more compassionate,” Setterdahl said. “It forced me to be more open-minded and understanding.”

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