My name is Yali Derman, and I am a young adult cancer survivor who was treated at Children’s Memorial Hospital for recurrent disease since the age of 4. Fortunately, because of the miracles of modern medicine and a sibling bone marrow transplant, I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and am now a Registered Nurse!

Sometimes the hardest story to tell is my own and that is where the power of the purse comes in for me. During my frequent extended stays in the hospital, I found great strength and comfort in the programs offered by the Family Services Department. In my situation creative art therapy was vital in helping me cope with the long and difficult treatments that ultimately saved my life.

At 16, I was granted the opportunity to design a purse with Kate Spade; at 18, I developed my own trademark-Yali’s Carry On- to signify how cancer survivors carry on in the face of their medical baggage. The Kate Spade project earned me and Kate Spade the title of donors of the year (Oct 2008) to the Make A Wish Foundation.In the spring of 2009 (my senior year of high school), I debuted a screen printed “Yali Carry On” graphic on a simple pink canvas beach bag to benefit the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago foundation called KIDSS for Kids. This organization, which I am in an alliance with, supports child and family services, such as the arts program I took advantage of when in isolation during my lengthy illness and bone marrow transplant. KIDSS for KIDS is funding the new playroom in the newly opened Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago .  All the proceeds of the Yali beach bag went to this and so far the beach bag has raised over $10,000 for KIDSS.

Creative endeavors were a segue to express my autobiographical voice and handbag designing supplied a powerful vocabulary for me to narrate what I would like to say about myself. The handbag I designed alongside Kate Spade and Co. was my first opportunity to encompass all the elements that compose my life within a handbag.

In the interpretive task of creating a tote bag, whether I am designing it for my own collection or conducting a tote making workshop for healthy children, seriously ill children, or adults, I always bring into the project my zest for life, my love of symbolism, my creative graphics and the story of my struggle with cancer as inspirational devices. As an art educator, my tote making workshops help participants explore their own ways of “Carrying On.”

I am now a registered nurse, having recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. My impetus to pursue such a career path is derived directly from my exposure to the special and gifted nursing team who advocated for me throughout my incredible 15 year journey at Children’s Memorial Hospital [now the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago]; a team, that reached out in crisis, and whose presence also illuminates each of my victories.  My goal is to become an advanced practice nurse in pediatric oncology and also facilitate complementary medicine programs, such as art therapy for seriously ill children. During the course of this past year, I designed another intricate graphic to adorn a higher-end “Carry On Carry All” to benefit KIDSS for KIDS. The graphic has significance in its representation of the cancer experience.

Currently, the newest Yali’s Carry On ® design incorporates 18 colors and is silk screened on a black microfiber, gray microfiber, or khaki canvas tote with matching leather handles and detail. Read more about the new design here. To date, the bag has raised nearly $200,000 for Child and Family Services at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital.


14 Responses to About Yali’s Carry On

  1. Kathryn Schneider says:


    I love the bag. I talked to your Mom at Midtown last night and promoted the launch this morning in spin. Several members asked if there was a close up picture available. Is there?

    Hope school is going well.


  2. Yali says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    For right now, the best way to see the bags up close is to go to the slide show If under the link that says, “YCO projects” There is a slideshow and one of the pictures contains all three bags. If you click on the picture of all three bags, there will be a link of the right-hand side that says “open photo in new window.” this should allow for a closer look a the bags.

    Yali D

  3. Sue says:

    Hi Yali – great bags! Can we still order the pink tote and/or the Kate Spade bag? If so how and where?

    Good luck to you!

    • Yali says:

      Hi Sue,

      Thanks for your interest, however, the Kate Spade bag and the Pink Beach tote are in retirement. The peacock is the big news for now! Hope you are getting exciting to purchase one of those!

      All my Best,
      Yali D

  4. Allison says:

    Love this, Yali! Not only the bag, but your positivity and desire to encourage others to be the same way. “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, my friend. Can’t wait to get my bag on 3/6…thank you!

  5. Donna G. says:


    Can’t wait to see you and the “carry on” totes. You are an inspiration for all……keep up the good work.

    Donna G.

  6. Martha/Reggie Duerst says:

    Yali, so happy to receive your card in the mail…have passed this event on to others, and hope to see you at Saks on March 6th to pick up one of your beautiful bags!
    Martha Duerst

  7. Marcia Strauss says:

    Hi Cousin Yali from your Ithaca family. Greetings from Cousins Barry, Marcia, Sylvie and Mike… we are glad that you are doing so well. Mazel tov on the bag – it is beautiful and Sylvie and I each are ordering one! Love to you and the rest of the family.

  8. Jaime Banks says:

    Hi –
    I live outside the Chicago area. How can I order one of your bags? My son is a survivor and the lead oncologist for his treatment protocol is a Chicago Memorial doc, so it would mean a lot!

    • Yali says:

      You can call the number For the Chicago Saks after March 6th and ask them to ship you a bag. The number is on the picture/advertisement for the new bag on the opening screen of the website.

      So glad you have found meaning in this bag and hope you all are finding yourself in good health!

      Yali D

  9. Yali,
    Your story is truly inspiring and heartwarming. It is wonderful to see how you have embraced your story and your life.
    The bag is gorgeous to boot! I saw your postcard at a local store, and while we don’t know each other, my girls all graduated from Schechter and they know you.
    My company is Irv’s Luggage, right across from Schechter, and if you would be interested, I would love to sell your bags in my store and on our website. I would be honored to support you, Children’s and KIDSS in any way you feel appropriate. Please contact me if this sounds interesting to you.
    All the best to you!

  10. Susan says:

    Lovely bag:) Do you have the dimensions available?

  11. Liat Wasserman says:

    Hey Yali! This Website is so cool! Great job with your new bags,they look awesome! My Spanish teacher even bought one! Everyone at Camp Ramah missed you this past Summer. I’ll be in Solelim this upcoming one and found a compromise between camp and Israel. I miss you so much.
    Best wishes,
    Liat Wasserman
    (Gvt. Wasserman’s daughter