Ottawa – It all started when Jessica Baird, an Ottawa teacher, reached out to family and friends looking for a few fun pairs of socks to get her through some difficult medical appointments.
The Sock Project provides fun socks to people living with autoimmune diseases around the world. The goal of the project is to bring comfort and joy to those suffering from chronic illnesses and help them feel supported in their struggle.
Baird has been able to send over 9,700 pairs of socks to people around the world, from all over Canada to across Australia, bringing people a feeling of warmth, support and community.
“When I moved to Ottawa, friends of mine had a daughter with Lupus—it was her idea six years ago to buy a pair of silly socks to get you through your medical appointments,” Baird said.
When Baird was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease known as Ankylosing Spondylitis: a degenerative disease that affects the spinal region, she started to receive a few pairs of socks from family and friends who just wanted to support her through her medical journey.
“I decided to put a video on YouTube asking people to send me socks, and people responded—now I re-gift those socks to people all over the world with different autoimmune diseases,” she said.
Not only are these socks helping to bring comfort and joy to those living with autoimmune diseases, but The Sock Project is also helping to raise awareness about the global burden of autoimmune conditions.
There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases that affect a wide range of body parts, according to Baird.
Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defense system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. Some common autoimmune diseases in women include Rheumatoid arthritis, Psoriasis, Lupus, Graves disease, and Type 1 diabetes.
“There is presently no cure, so the goal is to get money into research,” Baird said, adding that The Sock Project has raised over $73,000 to date towards researching autoimmune disease.
Baird also helps educate the public on what autoimmune diseases are and why they can be so debilitating, by running workshops for children and university students. One of her favorite activities she runs in her workshops is giving kids white socks and markers to decorate the socks with their thoughts and stories.
“Many times I’ve fallen off my chair because of the stories people can tell with a simple pair of white socks and markers,” she said, adding that although the socks are an important part of the project, “it isn’t really about the socks.”
“The socks are a symbol that humanity matters and nobody is left behind … Here is a pair of socks for you to wear to let you know you are loved and you are not alone,” she said. “Know that you are surrounded by a community of love when you wear these socks.
The Sock Project has been making a difference around the world and it doesn’t look like Baird will be stopping anytime soon. By bringing comfort and joy through her socks as well as raising awareness about autoimmune conditions, the project is connecting people, and bringing positivity to lives all over the world.
Her favorite part about the project is listening to people’s stories, and the serendipity of meeting other people with autoimmune diseases.
“I carry a backpack everywhere I go with socks in it, and it has The Sock Project on the back of it. I love when people I meet on the street see the backpack and ask about the project,” she said. “Oftentimes, the people I talk to have an autoimmune disease themselves, and they’ll stop to tell me their story.”
Moving forward, Baird hopes to continue spreading awareness, and raising more money for autoimmune disease research.
“The lifelong goal is to one day find a cure for these diseases,” she said. For now, Baird is making a difference one pair of socks at a time.
If you’re interested in donating to the sock project, getting involved or receiving a pair of socks yourself, visit The Sock Project website at www.the-sock-project.webnode.page/.