Caring Hearts Coupled with Helping Hands: Making a Difference for Children with Medical Hair Loss

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Children experiencing hair loss because of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, alopecia, trichotillomania, burns, and other health conditions deal with multiple difficulties. Threats to body image and struggles with self-confidence can be devastating, as the children's appearances change radically. Medical hair loss may have an effect on how children manage the rigors of cancer treatment and the after effects of such treatment. Children With Hair Loss, Wigs for Kids, and the Magic Yarn Project are three nonprofit organizations that help vulnerable children overcome these challenges at no cost to the children or their families.
Children with Hair Loss (www.childrenwithhairloss) was founded by Regina Villemure 17 years ago with the mission to “cover young heads to heal young hearts.” Regina's motivation was the diagnosis of her 3-year-old niece Sarah with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Children with Hair Loss provides children up to 21 years of age with custom fitted, real human hair replacement in cases of medical hair loss. Thousands of children have been blessed by this initiative.
Wigs for Kids (www.wigsforkids.org) was established over 30 years ago, providing both hair replacement with human hair and continuing support for children. The organization was founded by a stylist Jeffrey Paul whose 15-year-old niece with leukemia lost her hair following chemotherapy treatment. He had a desire to help his niece and other children suffering from hair loss, hoping to make a difference in the quality of their young lives. Wigs for Kids' mission is to: “help children look themselves and live their lives.” Wigs are created by combining the hair from between 20 and 30 donated ponytails (a minimum of 20 inches long). These wigs are provided at no cost. Currently over 100 children are helped by this organization yearly.
The nonprofit Magic Yarn Project (www.themagicyarnproject.com) was started by oncology nurse Holly Christensen when one of her nursing classmate's daughter was diagnosed with a lymphoma. This organization creates whimsical princess and pirate wigs for girls and boys who have experienced medical hair loss. In less than a year, the organization has developed a global community of contributors, which has created over 1,400 wigs for individual children and cancer centers in 23 countries. Online tutorials are available to guide their work. Those creating wigs include (a) individuals in their homes in many countries who access online tutorials and often involve their own children in this work, (b) church and community groups, and (c) even prison crocheting groups working with institutional social workers. The incarcerated women participating in creation of these fantasy wigs for this project note that having this opportunity gives them purpose and motivation. Recently the innovative project was honored at the One Hundred Gala cancer research fundraiser hosted by the Massachusetts General Cancer Center.
These three organizations provide examples of caring individuals identifying a need based on a personal experience with a child who was a friend or family member with medical hair loss. Based on their empathy, the founders of each of these initiatives had a desire to make a difference, moving beyond caring about one child to changing the lives of many children in devastating circumstances. Each founder developed a nonprofit organization dependent on both in kind and financial donations, including grants. Each reached out to others willing to volunteer in response to the mission statements of the organizations. The Magic Yarn Project has even extended to those who are incarcerated, giving meaning and purpose to their lives through having the opportunity to serve vulnerable children. Each of these organizations and their founders provide an example of how one person can make a difference by putting into action a caring heart by adding helping hands.
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