Cancer awareness Charity

Hope for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 Cheyenne Hendricks

This time of year, the spirit of giving is in the air: giving thanks, giving gifts, and giving back. So, what comes to mind when you think of “giving back?" I think of Ms. Jessica Ekstrom, founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, a headband line which raises money for childhood cancer research. This inspiring young woman started this line out of sheer devotion to helping children with cancer. She orchestrated her company to not only give a beautiful headband to a little girl battling cancer when one of their headbands is sold, but also to donate a dollar to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation with every purchase!

In 2011, while studying at North Carolina State University, Jessica worked as an intern for the Make A Wish Foundation. She treasured her time with the kids. She wanted every moment she spent there to be motivated to each child’s specific needs. She noticed that the girls enjoyed wearing colorful hairbands after losing their hair from chemo therapy. They seemed to prefer headbands more than wigs; hence Jessica wanted to develop a system to provide each girl struggling through this illness with a bright, beautiful headband. She understood that headbands to these girls meant keeping their feminine identity. It meant that they weren’t alone in this battle, and that they were still the girls they always had been. It meant hope.

One day, at Make A Wish, a four year old girl wished to go to Disney Land. She was just a baby, but she knew she didn’t have much time left. Her only hope was to meet the real Sleeping Beauty before she departed from this life. When the foundation granted her a trip to the most magical place in the world, she was overjoyed. Her jubilation was irrepressible, but a week before her trip, her cancer took a turn for the worse. Her doctors required her to stay home with her family. Her dreams were crushed. Jessica could not watch this sweet child go without meeting her idol, so without any hesitation, she transformed from Jessica Ekstrom into Sleeping Beauty herself and showed up on the girl’s door step. Jessica brought the girl a glistening crown, a fairytale princess dress, and personally read her the whimsical story of Sleeping Beauty. Seven days later the girl passed away. Her mother called Jessica to express her gratitude for fulfilling her daughter’s dreams. Her daughter got everything she ever wanted: to meet the ethereal princess she loved.

After this experience, Jessica knew what she needed to do. These girls have to fight for their lives, so their hair loss should be the last thing on their minds. Being a speaker at CAMPUSPEAK, Jessica knows that the cornerstone of making an idea into a reality is the decision to “just go for it!” So, she did. Despite her eighteen hour a day course load, she launched a line of headbands sold nation wide. “If you believe in something enough, time isn’t an issue.” Because of her affinity for American made products, she employed as a manufacturer.

She started forming her company in 2011 when she was only nineteen! Headbands of Hope launched in April of 2012 and has now expanded to distribute headbands all over the country. They have a plethora of collections from which to choose or you can create your own color combo. They are trendy, fashionable, and best of all, charitable. 

Today, Headbands of Hope has sold over 7,000 headbands, donated 7,000 headbands to young girls suffering from cancer, and donated $7,000 to St. Balrdick’s.

Now a college graduate, Jessica encourages others to follow whatever it is they love. Society has put a negative light on her generation as lackadaisical and slovenly, but she breaks through that stereo type as a philanthropic power house! She exclaims, “You’re never too young to start something you believe in!” She works daily to support the cause and give young girls hope again. Help her by buying a headband today. A fun headband is a great stocking stuffer, and with the purchase of these cheerful accessories, you will also be giving hope to a child in need. 

Follow Headbands of Hope on Twitter & Facebook.  

- Cheyenne Hendricks
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