After an internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, college student Jessica Ekstrom found that girls loved to wear headbands after losing their hair to treatment. Therefore, she founded HeadbandsOfHope.org. For every headband purchased, one headband is donated to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.
Almost everyone can think of a moment where they knew their life was about to change. For me, my moment was right before my 20th birthday in the summer of 2011. I began my internship at the Make-a-Wish Foundation
, which I can confidently say changed my life forever.
Every day, I woke up and granted the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses – taking day trips to visit the wish kids at their houses, bringing them their favorite toys. We received hundreds of letters from children who said we changed their lives, but little did they know, they had changed mine.
During my internship, I couldn’t help but think about the thousands of girls around the world who were losing their hair as a result of chemotherapy. For girls and women everywhere, hair is a part of their feminine identity. Losing their hair as a result of life-threatening illness is traumatic for these young girls and unfortunately, wigs can be uncomfortable and unappealing to them.
So I decided that I wanted to provide a way to allow these girls to keep their feminine identity and be constantly reminder that they are not alone.
That’s why I started Headbands Of Hope.
For every headband purchased, one headband goes to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick's Foundation
to fund life-saving childhood cancer research. I’ve had the opportunity to distribute headbands to girls in the hospitals across the country. The best part of my job is opening the door to a hospital room and seeing young girl’s faces light up when I bring dozens of colorful headbands to their beds to choose from.
Since I launched in May 2012, I've sold thousands of headbands online and in stores around the nation. By creating Headbands of Hope, I don’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference. I can wake up and do both at the same time.
The Hard Truth
Although it’s fun and fulfilling to bring the girls headbands in the hospitals, I’m constantly reminded that there still isn’t a cure --childhood cancer takes the lives of more children in the U.S. than many other childhood diseases combined.
Children with cancer cannot be treated simply as "smaller adults." The cancers strike kids differently and they are in a crucial stage of development, which complicates the effects of treatments and can result in life-long complications. Progress is also especially slow in curing adolescents and young adults, because federal funding for childhood cancers is a fraction compared to adult cancers.
Therefore, attention needs to be brought to childhood cancer. Progress can't be made without research. Research can't be done without funding. And funding can't be done without awareness.
My goal with Headbands of Hope starts with awareness and ends with a cure. Together, we can spread hope in all girls…one headband at a time.