MEET JESSICA EKSTROM - FOUNDER OF HEADBANDS OF HOPE

"It is not about what we do when we dream, it is about what we do when we wake up!"

"Be observant of the world around you. Inspiration isn't some huge tidal wave that crashes over you. It's typically a tiny spark and you have to decide if you're going to turn it into a fire."

These are the words Jessica Ekstrom lives by while she is doing her part to fight against childhood cancer.

JESSICA'S JOURNEY

Who could have imagined the attention that a North Caroline State University junior would receive for her incredible vision of touching the lives of girls with cancer. 

It started during the summer of 2011 while Jessica was interning for a wish-granting organization. Jessica noticed that several young girls, who had lost their hair to chemotherapy, were wearing headbands as a mark of their feminine identity. They loved wearing fun, stylish headbands. She knew she wanted to do something for these girls to instill hope and confidence and to give back to childhood cancer research.

TURNING VISION INTO REALITY

Without a business background, Jessica followed her passion and started Headbands for Hope in April 2012.  One of the biggest challenges and fears she faced when launching Headbands for Hope was her age. Because Jessica was only 20 years old, she feared that others would not take her seriously.  With the help of friends and family, she realized that she should embrace her youth and environment, step out of her comfort zone, and make a difference.

Headbands for Hope designs stylish, beautiful headbands for girls of all ages. For every headband sold, the organization provides a headband to a girl with cancer. Jessica modeled this after the TOMS shoes “one for one” policy. Additionally, for every headband sold, the company donates one dollar to a childhood cancer research organization of the purchaser’s choice:

·      St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

·      St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private (non-government) funder of pediatric cancer research grants, supports cooperative research to provide children nationwide access to the very latest in research and clinical trials.

·      Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity, has raised more than $80 million toward fulfilling cancer patient Alex Scott’s dream of finding a cure, funding over 450 pediatric cancer research projects nationally.

·      CURE was established in 1975 as a grassroots organization with one crystal-clear mission: to save lives. CURE focuses on improving the care and quality of life – as well as the survival rates – of children with cancer.

THE BLESSINGS

Headbands of Hope is celebrating its three-year anniversary. Since launching in 2012, the organization has donated over $35,000 to cancer research and 35,000 headbands to children across the United States. By June 1, 2015, Headbands of Hope had donated headbands to every children’s hospital in the United States.

The organization’s future plans are expanding into a boys’ line called Headwear of Hope. Jessica explained how amazing giving the headbands to the girls felt, but seeing the boys with cancer, made her realize that they deserved support as well. A brother company was born.

Headbands of Hope also started a college campus representative program, through which representatives on different college campuses work to spread Headbands of Hope’s mission and donating to local hospitals.

HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

 Here are a few ways to help:

·      If you know of a store that should carry these headbands contact – Lauren@headbandsofhope.org

·      Spread the word about their amazing work and adorable headbands on social media.

·      College students or sororities should get involved with the college representative program.

·      Host a trunk show.

·      If you know of hospitals or cancer camps in your area that would like donations, share that with Headbands of Hope.

Here are just a few of my favorite designs.

(Click on the picture and it will take you to the website.)

Let’s spread hope in all kids… one headband at a time.