Meet Jessica Ekstrom, the woman behind Headbands Of Hope. Children and cancer is such a sensitive issue, but Jessica comes with her headbands that are made of hope. What’s more worthy than a child’s smile? With a genuine positive spirit and her strong will power, Jess is the golden example of the ‘I make it happen’. This lovely lady and her project got me all hopeful. We all have to learn out of her words and work. If only all of us become a tiny little more like her! This world would be a better place.
Everything starts with a spark. How did it all start for you, Jessica?
During the summer of 2011, I did an internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I found that girls loved to wear headbands instead of wigs after losing their hair to treatment. The girls at Make-A-Wish touched my heart so much and I wanted to develop a way where every girl battling cancer could have a headband.
A 4-year-old girl with brain cancer wished to go to Disney World to meet Sleeping Beauty for her wish. A week before her trip, her cancer took a turn and the doctors sent her home saying she could have her last few weeks with her family. A couple days later, I showed up on her doorstep dressed as Sleeping Beauty. I brought her a princess dress and crown and read her the story of Sleeping Beauty. A week later, she passed away. Her mother called me saying she was at peace with her daughter’s passing because she knew she got everything she ever wanted: to meet Sleeping Beauty. At this point, I knew I wanted to take action of my own to help these girls.
Therefore I founded Headbands of Hope, for every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to fund childhood cancer research.
Why did you choose girls who suffer from cancer?
Hair for girls is a strong piece of their feminine identity. They’re already risking losing their life, their hair-loss should be the last thing they have to worry about. Headbands are the perfect way for them to regain their femininity without hiding what they’re going through with a wig or hat.
I read on your website that you have no business degree, no idea how to manufacture a product. But you had the idea and your passion. As our magazine is called ‘Nothing But Hope And Passion’, I have to say that you are the definition of our motto. Still. How hard has it been for you to make it happen?
There’s always going to be hurdles for things you want. Nothing worth it is ever easy. I’m fortunate to live in an age where we have so much access to knowledge through the internet and connecting with mentors and experts on social media. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them. I’ve had triumphs and I’ve learned from those too. If you believe in what you’re doing enough, work doesn’t feel like work. It’s all an experience.
With every bought headband you give another one to a girl with cancer. Girls are girls and especially these hero-angels deserve some special treatment. Would you like to tell us how does this process roll? Do you partner up with a specific clinic or it is more broadened?
Most of our donations are through children’s hospitals around the U.S. At the end of every month, we count our sales and then ship to hospitals and childhood cancer organizations. We’ve recently donated internationally to hospitals in Canada, Mexico and Peru.
‘Childhood cancer is extremely underfunded. That’s why I wanted to donate a portion to research as well as a headband. That way, when you purchase a headband you’re donating to both sides of cancer: the emotional side with a headband and the clinical side to research. We’re very fortunate to have partnered with amazing research organizations: The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, CURE Childhood Cancer and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’
Who designs these hopeful headpieces?
We have a design team where our headbands are made in Bismarck, North Dakota. We also take inspiration ideas from our followers!
Where can we find them?
Headbands can be purchased on HeadbandsOfHope.org
You also have an option for those who want to become your retailers. As we are based in Berlin, I have to ask-is there a chance of a european girl to become one?
Yes, we’re willing to work with stores all around the world who want to help us spread hope.
What are the next goals you set for Headbands of Hope?
Ideally, in 10 years, Headbands of Hope won’t be around. I think I’m one of the few people that can say I hope I’m out of a job because I hope there’s a cure for cancer. But in the meantime, we just expanded into a boys line called Headwear of Hope. When I go to the hospitals, it’s amazing to give the headbands to girls but I see the boys there and I realized they deserve something as well. With Headbands of Hope, we’ll continue to expand with new styles and retailers.
We usually ask, as a theme question, what does ‘Nothing But Hope And Passion’ mean to you. As I already pointed out, with what you do, you are the idol of our magazine, feel free to say anything you want to our readers. We will follow any advice you would give.
Every great accomplishment starts with the decision to go for it. I’m a speaker at CAMPUSPEAK, and one of the main points I like to share with college students is making the decision to take risks. It can be really scary, but if we didn’t take risks, there would be no exploration, small businesses or other factors that drive innovation. Also, there will always be an excuse that it’s not a ‘good time’. There’s no such thing as the perfect time! I started Headbands of Hope when I was taking an 18-hour course load. If you believe in something enough, time isn’t an issue.
To get even more familiar with Jessica’s work, watch the video below.