I’m an Everygirl and…I’m helping young cancer patients find hope.

  • Copy by: Jessica Ekstrom

I feel like everyone has a moment in their life that they feel defines them. That moment where everything that follows is suddenly seen differently. For me, my moment was in the summer of 2011. I began my internship at the Make-a-Wish Foundation that I can confidently say, changed my life forever. Every day, 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, they were changing mine.

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. And at that moment, I knew that I wanted to create incredible moments like this for these kids that deserved everything and more.

I found that girls loved to wear headbands instead of wigs after losing their hair to treatment to keep their feminine identity. Therefore, I founded HeadbandsofHope.org. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund childhood cancer research. Since Headbands of Hope went live last April, its been featured on the Today Show, TOMS Shoes Blog, Fitness Magazine, and more. The publicity is great, but the thousands of smiles on girls faces when they get to pick out their headband in hospital means much more. The best part of my job is opening the door to their room and seeing their faces light up when I bring dozens of colorful headbands to their beds to choose from.

Throughout my journey with Headbands of Hope, one of the most important things I’ve learned is the difference between success and achievement. Achievements are the tangible milestones we reach, like an increase in salary or a trophy on your shelf. But success is more important. We can attain a new car and expensive vacations, but we can only feel success deep in our hearts, where it’s difficult to put those feelings into words. The moment I open the door to a girl’s hospital room with a basket of headbands and see her smile, that’s when I feel my success. There’s no other way to explain it. There’s no numerical number I hit or competitor I beat. It’s just that feeling that I get where I know that all my hard work is making an impact and changing a life. I don’t even need to think about it on a large scale. All I need is one single moment. That moment that a girl looks in the mirror to see her headband, and finally feels pretty.

The Everygirl manifesto says we want to be inspired. I encourage you to take my story as a challenge to aim for success, not for achievements. No matter who you are, where you work, how old you are (I’m 21), keep your hearts open to inspiration. Trust me–a little inspiration can fuel you to do amazing things. Who knows, one day you might be asked to contribute your story to The Everygirl!