Bio: Jessica Ekstrom is a senior at North Carolina State University studying communications. She launched Headbands of Hope in April 2012 during her junior year. Since then, her company has been featured on the TODAY Show and TOMS Shoes Blog.
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 that I can confidently say, changed my life forever.
Everyday, I got to wake up and grant the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. I took day trips to visit the wish kids at their houses and bring them their favorite toys. We received hundreds of letters from wish children that said we changed their lives; little did they know, they were changing mine.
I thought about the thousands of girls around the world losing their hair to chemotherapy. Being a young girl presents many struggles with self-esteem already and losing their hair as a result of a life-threatening illness is traumatic.
For girls and women everywhere, their hair is a part of their feminine identity. Wigs can be uncomfortable and unappealing, especially to younger girls.
I realized that headbands are the perfect way for these girls to keep their feminine identity and have a constant reminder that they're not alone.
Therefore, I started HeadbandsOfHope.org.
For every headband purchased, one headband will go to a girl with cancer and $1 will be donated to the St. Baldrick's Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.
Since I launched in May of this year, I've sold thousands of headbands online and in stores around the nation. I created a company where I didn't have to choose between making a living and making a difference. I can wake up and do both at the same time.
I’ve had the opportunity to distribute headbands to girls in the hospitals across the nation. The best part of my job is opening the door to their room and seeing their faces light up when I bring dozens of colorful headbands to their beds to choose from.
Even though 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 any other disease - in fact, more 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.
Headbands of Hope aims to start with awareness and end with a cure. Together, we can spread hope in all girls…one headband at a time.
Instagram handle: @headbandsofhope