San Antonio cancer patient’s mom making special shirts for kids across the world

I.C.O.N. Shirts include zippers allowing access to ports for chemotherapy

SAN ANTONIO - – It’s a story of giving, born from necessity.

Many KSAT viewers are familiar with Noah Adams, who was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in 2020 at the age of 17.

“His cancer is, is an ugly one. It’s a beast. It’s called Ewing Sarcoma. And he, so they have five years before they’re considered survivors,” his mom Debi Harper said.

When Noah stays in that delicate remission, he has spent his time thinking of others. He started the Stay Strong Foundation to help other kids with cancer.

RELATED: San Antonio cancer survivor launches charity to give back to pediatric patients

A wing of that charity is called I.C.O.N. Shirts, which stands for In Care Of Noah.

The idea stemmed from the port in Noah’s chest, where he used to receive chemotherapy.

“He had to take off his shirt every single time. He hated it, and he hated the hospital gowns because then you had the back opened and he just, he didn’t like it,” Harper said.

Shirts with openings online were too expensive, so Noah’s aunt sewed a zipper onto several of Noah’s shirts, and he loved it.

So for the last year and a half, Harper has been making those I.C.O.N. zipper shirts for kids all over the world.

“We’ve delivered to Croatia, Australia, everywhere across the United States,” Harper said.

Right now, the operation is all Harper.

Many requests come in online through the Stay Strong website, and the kids can be more specific about what type of shirt they want.

However, a lot of orders come to Harper through University Hospital. HIPPA doesn’t allow a lot of details, so the orders are more generic, like: Girl 4T Dress, or Boy Adult Small.

Sometimes she’ll get orders of 100 shirts from the hospital.

Out of her house, she cuts and sews away -- skills she did not originally have.

“I learned the skill with YouTube to be able to do this,” Harper laughed while sewing. “So they’re not perfect, but they work and the kids love them.”

She shops for the shirts at stores all around town, choosing fun, inspirational prints that bring a little normalcy to the kids’ lives.

“We’ve heard that firsthand, especially from a little four-year-old, Gabriel Elijah. He is fighting leukemia, and he was gifted one of our shirts. We met him and he’s just so excited because he gets to wear these normal shirts that have his favorite characters on them and he gets that look normal,” Harper said.

She has become close to parents with cancer patients of all ages.

“I hate that I have to do the little bitty ones because I mean, 2T, that’s a two-year-old,” Harper said.

She said baby onesies already have room for ports at the top, so she makes sizes from toddler 2T to XXXL, and she feels honored to create each one.

“It’s very rewarding, and I’m always texting Noah and telling him, ‘Hey, I just delivered 50 more to the hospital!’” Harper said.

She can feel Noah’s pride all the way from Pittsburgh where he is currently in college, proving to other kids they can beat cancer and live out their dreams.

“Noah just takes on every day with positivity,” Harper said.

RELATED: Central Catholic High School senior graduates after being diagnosed with cancer

Harper is taking that positivity and expanding her operation to include children with other health conditions.

She also makes I.C.O.N. shirts with zippers down the side for children with any condition that requires feeding tubes.

To donate to the cause, all you have to do is text ICON to 53555.


About the Authors:

Emmy-nominated journalist, boy mom, wife, crossfitter and recovering news anchor.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.