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Hives for Lives gift will help Cancer Center 'bee-t' cancer

Molly and Carly Houlahan, Hives for Lives Carly (left) and Molly Houlahan

By Elizabeth Crown

When their beloved grandfather died suddenly of throat cancer in 2004, Molly and Carly Houlahan wanted to find a way to honor him and save others from the same fate.

In a “eureka moment,” the young entrepreneurs, now aged 16 and 14, established Hives for Lives. The sisters’ company sells honey, lip balms and beeswax candles and donates 100 percent of the profits to cancer laboratory research.

“Hives for Lives helps keep our grandfather alive in our hearts and in our memories,” Molly said.

Partners in cancer laboratory research

Since it was founded in 2004, Pennsylvania-based Hives for Lives has raised more than $150,000 for cancer research from the sales of over 20,000 jars of honey and countless lip balms and candles in over 30 states and two countries. In 2008 alone, Hives for Lives donated over $70,000 to a half-dozen world-renowned hospitals and cancer research centers in the United States.

The Stanford Cancer Center is one beneficiary, having recently received a $4,500 gift and being named a Charitable Partner in the company’s “Local Honey Means Local Money” campaign. This means the Cancer Center will be an annual recipient of Hives for Lives research funds.

“We chose Stanford for our donations for the California region because when we researched where great work on fighting cancer was being done, Stanford seemed to be top of the list,” Molly and Carly said.

“We also had been out to speak at Stanford Hospital with the Young President’s Organization in the fall [of 2008]. And finally, our parents went to Stanford when they were younger. So, it was an easy decision,” the young women said.

Sharing the bounty

Molly and Carly know honey production well. Their other grandparents had kept beehives for several years, and their grandmother taught the girls how to raise bees and harvest honey. The year Grandpa Michael Otto Houlahan died, the bees produced a surplus of honey. The beekeeping grandparents didn’t know what to do with it all.

The teens suggested they could sell the honey and donate the proceeds to help fight cancer. Carly came up with the name Hives for Lives and the logo. They sold their first harvest of honey in 2004, starting with sales at their school and church. Now, five years later, their business has expanded to include distribution at nine regions of Whole Foods Market.

Building a business and a tradition of giving

Molly and Carly intend Hives for Lives to exist as long as there is cancer. (They’re shooting for the year 2020.) And they want their company to continue to be run by young people. They have started a Young Business Women’s Club at their school to develop a plan to pass on their work to other girls. They also are working with younger cousins – aged 9, 7 and 4 – in California who will tend the hives for the first time this spring.

These remarkable young women want everyone to know: “If we all do a little, we can change the world – one Helper Bee at a time.”

Posted on 03/02/09

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