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!