Headbands of Hope helps children feel beautiful and confident through some of their toughest times. No child should ever have to understand the word “cancer,” especially not have to fight it. But what do kids love? They love to play make-believe, they love to play dress-up, they love to play. What a gift for a little girl to put on a flower crown, or a headband that makes her feel like the princess she is. For every purchase through HoH, a child receives a headband! They have donated to EVERY children’s hospital in the U.S.A., and now in 15 countries – for a grand total of 330,155 headbands donated by the end of 2018. But when you look at something that is so successful, don’t you wonder how it started?
It started at the most magical place on earth…Disneyworld, of course! Jess Ekstrom had an internship as a photographer at that magical place, and got to photograph so many smiling faces of young kiddos on their various wish-granting trips. One internship led to another, and during college, Jess interned at her local wish-granting organization. She wanted these kids to have a way to feel confident and beautiful during their treatments, and she often saw the girls wearing headbands. But unfortunately, there was no one supplying these for the kids. Their parents or families had to purchase them, which in times of heavy medical bills piling up, may have been considered a luxury.
When Jess started Headbands of Hope, she had no idea what she was doing running a business. Her dream was to donate a headband for each one that was sold, but it took a significant amount of time and help from others to get to April 25th, 2012…the day Jess got her first order. From her mom. Fortunately, HoH has come a long way since that exciting day! Did we already mention that they’ve donated over 330 THOUSAND headbands?! But putting an exciting, large number aside, it’s about each kid. Each little girl who feels beautiful when she has felt nothing but nauseated in weeks, and each little boy who feels like a rocker-dude when he puts on his bandana, just days after he had to shave his head.
The weekend I am posting this blog took me on quite a journey. As I was thinking about how to snap a few cute pictures with my scrunchies, two of the girls fighting pediatric cancer that I have recently followed on social media, passed away. Ashtyn Paulson was 19. Natalie Dawn was 5. One was on the brink of finding out who she would become as a grown-up, and one maybe never got the chance to dream of what she would be when she grew up. Looking at their instagram accounts swirls every emotion of mine around, and I keep winding up in tears. There are pictures and videos of them smiling, laughing and being strong. And there are also so many of them looking completely exhausted, in pain, or hooked up to more machines/tubes than I could ever imagine. I looked at myself in the mirror with a cute scrunchie holding together my Sunday bun-hair, and I realized this was so much more than an accessory. This was an opportunity that I was given, thanks to the hard work of HoH, to bless a young child I will never meet. But even greater of a realization? It was a wake-up call for me. One to live my life worthy of their legacies. To live my life every single day in a way they will never have a chance to. But I want their fighting and loving spirits to live on in this world, and I’m honored to do that in their memories.
Headbands of Hope does countless incredible events, donation drives, galas, etc. They discovered that since so many other incredible childhood cancer-fighting organizations were already out there, they could be stronger together! They call it “headBAND together” series, in which they raise funds and awareness of these other organizations by donating 10% of their online proceeds to a designated organization for a week. But the question so often is, how can I help? Woo, woo! Here we go.
- Buy anything from their website! One item purchased = One headband donated
- Apply to become a “headband hero” – you can do one or any of the following:
- Arranging headband and buff donation distributions to local hospitals or childhood cancer organizations
- Promoting Headbands of Hope around schools, social media, and your community
- Working with different organizations and clubs to set up fundraisers and events
- Generating online sales through your personally assigned promo code
- Gathering Headbands of Hope moments to share with us
- Hosting trunk shows or info booths
- Selling Headbands of Hope products at local events
- Involving headbands in hospital events (e.g., prom, holidays, “Make Your Own Headband Day”, etc.)
- Generating local press
- Have a lot of followers on social media? Help spread the word! They are looking for people to receive their newest, unreleased products monthly in exchange for pictures/posts on your social media!
There are more ways you can get involved! Check out their “involvement” page to find out more.
Thank you so much for reading this story and learning about Headbands of Hope. I hope you feel inspired that YOU can make a difference for these kids through this organization. I hope, too, that you realize that what you do could make an impact beyond what you could imagine. Jess was a college student, and her first order was from her momma. Now she has helped children all. over. the. world. Imagine what you could do.
Happy Sunday, friends! <3
XoXo Lindsey Sholtis