Jessica Ekstrom grew up in Cornelius, NC and currently lives in Raleigh. She is a 2013 graduate of North Carolina State University in Communications Public Relations. Founder/CEO of Headbands of Hope since April 2012. Speaker at CAMPUSPEAK since June 2013. Author of The Freshman Fabulous: The Girl’s Guide to College. Contributor at Entrepreneur.
Right before my 20th birthday in the summer of 2011, I did an internship at a wish-granting organization for kids with cancer.
One girl in particular, a 4-year-old named Renee with brain cancer, received tragic news a week before her wish to go to Disney World to meet Sleeping Beauty. The doctors sent her home, saying she should have her last two weeks with her family. I showed up on her doorstep dressed as sleeping beauty and read her stories and dressed her in her new princess dress and crown. A week later, I received a phone call from her mother informing me that Renee had passed away. Her mother said she was at peace with her daughters passing because she knew she got everything she ever wanted: to meet sleeping beauty.
At this point, everything changed. My “problems” didn’t seem like problems at all. My visions of my future were wiped clean and starting to build from scratch.
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. Not only do they have to face the risk of losing their lives, they feel that they lose a part of their feminine identity.
Therefore I started Headbands of Hope. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.
Since Headbands of Hope launched in April 2012, it has been featured on the Today Show, Forbes, Seventeen Magazine and more. But more importantly, we’ve been able to donate thousands of headbands to girls across the world who deserve them.
On top of running Headbands of Hope, I travel around the country to share my story of how I turned a summer internship into an organization that changes the world.
For more information on Headbands of Hope, visit: www.headbandsofhope.com
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