Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Headbands of Hope

Guest blog from Jessica Ekstrom, a LeaderShape graduate from North Carolina State University...
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 that they were changing mine.
One day, I was pulling my hair back in a ponytail and thought about the hundreds of girls I encountered who lose their hair to cancer. I saw how much losing their hair had an impact on their self-esteem and confidence level.
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.
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.

For girls and women everywhere, their hair is a part of their feminine identity. Wigs can be uncomfortable and unappealing, especially to younger girls.

Therefore, I started Headbands of Hope. 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. Headbands can be purchased at www.headbandsofhope.org.

LeaderShape really inspired me to turn my vision of Headbands of Hope into a reality. Since we launched in April, I've donated hundreds of headbands to girls experiencing chemotherapy and also help fund research for pediatric cancer through St. Baldrick's.

The headbands are in numerous stores and talked about in magazines, newspapers and talk shows. Miss Alaska will be promoting Headbands of Hope and wear one in the Miss America pageant next year. Headbands of Hope even helped me get my dream internship at NBC's Today Show this summer. But most importantly, it helped me put a smile on hundreds of girl's faces who deserve it.

I read a quote once by Richard Branson that said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.”

LeaderShape made me believe that I could be one of the “crazy” ones and change the world. And now, looking at what Headbands of Hope has done, I’m starting to believe that I have. Thanks LeaderShape!

Saturday, July 7, 2012


You Only LeaderShape Once.

We saw this tweeted during some sessions of The LeaderShape Institute. It is a clever and creative take on the popular “you only live once” saying that is so prevalent these days. And, for most, participating in The LeaderShape Institute does only happen one time.


We hope that anyone who experiences The LeaderShape Institute will continue to “LeaderShape” every day. To always be living in Day 7. Feeling stuck with this? Here are some ideas to get you moving:

Maybe it’s with your Cluster Facilitator, a Family Cluster member, or a Guest Leader. Take some time to catch up with one another and talk. Really talk. Like you did at The LeaderShape Institute. About your passions, challenges, wishes… If you aren’t near one another, pick up the phone, Skype, Facetime, Google Chat, text, email, snail mail, whatever! Just keep having conversations that matter.

Revisit a lesson
There are a lot of opportunities to expand our understanding of others, the world, and ourselves during the six days of the Institute. Choose one lesson from the Institute and work to incorporate it into your life somehow for a week.

Spend some time alone
Alone with a goal - something that you are working on. Get face-to-face with it and determine what you need to do to move forward. Now do it.

Spend some more time alone
With yourself. Think, write, draw, take a walk, whatever works for you that gives you a way in which to reflect. Life is busy and we can easily get caught up in being busy without always being productive. Take a pause.

Be an Example
Actions speak. They demonstrate to people what you care about and who you are. If you believe in the lessons of LeaderShape, in living with integrity and with a healthy disregard for the impossible, live it! Others will follow your lead.

LeaderShapers - What do you have to add to this list?

This post is part of our Day 7 on the 7th series. See last month’s by going here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Free Hugs

There are points in our lives where we have those “moments of truth” and LeaderShape was my first “moment of truth.” It was where I decided to pursue my passion and develop a vision whole-heartedly. Since that day, everyday has been Day 7. I attended LeaderShape in 2011 and I have been working towards making a positive impact on the community and also a change in the world around me.

At LeaderShape
At the beginning of the summer I worked a program through Central Michigan University called Leadership Camp. Leadership Camp is a phenomenal program for which I was a facilitator. It is a camp for incoming freshman to come and learn about how to make a difference using the Social Change Model. Along with twenty-three other staff members, we were able to make a positive impact on the lives of many students. For me, this was my first experience with having campers and I must say that it was tremendous! Being apart of Leadership camp was amazing because many of the values of LeaderShape were present and I was able to gain a new perspective and build new relationships. Although it was a different experience it reminded me of LeaderShape.

LeaderShape was the beginning of my adventure to make a change in the world and this summer I’ll be taking another step towards reaching it. I am going to be working with CMU’s Leadership Institute but also doing some traveling to give free hugs and make a difference in simple lasting ways. I will be traveling to Kentucky, Texas, Boston and a few other places along the way over the next few months.

LeaderShape was such an influential time for me. Before LeaderShape, I had a plan to make a difference but after LeaderShape, it became a reality. That week helped me develop the passion I needed, the faith that I can make a difference and the ability to go out and be the difference everyday!

There are times when I give free hugs and pass out small messages of encouraging and kind words. It has really become a staple in what I do. It is a simple message of being comfortable with being uncomfortable and love for everyone. Along with giving free hugs I do a “24 hour free hugs” when I attended Relay 4 Life Programs. I included the photo of the Leadership Camp Staff because they have been such a great influence and encouragement to me. It was such a tremendous experience. The other photo with the painting is from my excursion to find more we and less me on campuses. My friend and mentor Jesi Parker lives out her LeaderShape Vision through her art. She paints them and donates all profits to the LIVESTRONG Organization. I’ve left the description for the photo with my LeaderShape shirt on because it is a very fond memory and reminder that everyday is Day 7 and that you have to live and love what you do.  I’ve shared those photos with LeaderShape because it is apart of who I am and how I live my passion out daily.

Free Hugs after an exam
Leadership Camp

24 hours of Free Hugs at Relay 4 Life

Less me and more we

Vincent Thurman
LeaderShape 2011 Grad
Central Michigan University