Guest Blogger! Jessica Ekstrom!

I like to utilize my blog in a number of ways.  1, Obviously, I’m trying to keep you guys interested so you’ll actually donate.  2, I love talking about myself.  (Just kidding!  Kinda…) 3, To show off my new nail polish! 4, To give you fellow runners, as well as aspiring runners a taste of my greatness (or to give you some important tidbits I’ve leaned along the way), 5, To uplift some folks in the community that I think are doing some great things.

Jessica Ekstrom is a cool girl that I met while I was working for NC State’s Department of Campus Recreation.  Still to this day, it’s one of my favorite jobs.  There’s nothing better than working with a bunch of like-minded, healthy individuals, which is what I like about my job now.  Anyhoo, Jess is a youngin who has totally got her head on straight, and she’s made waves all over the country with her sweet project.  Jess, everyone!

HOH

“Right before my 20th birthday in the summer of 2011, I participated in an internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation that changed my life forever.

Everyday, 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 day, I was pulling my hair back in a ponytail and thought about the hundreds of girls I encountered that lose their hair to cancer. I saw how much losing their hair had an impact on their self-esteem and confidence level.

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. 
I found that the girls loved to wear headbands to still feel “girly” after hair loss instead of wigs.

Therefore I started Headbands of Hope! For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research.

Since we launched in April, I’ve had the opportunity to distribute headbands to girls in the hospitals across the nation. 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.  Even though it’s fun and fulfilling to bring the girls headbands in the hospitals, I’m constantly reminded that there still isn’t a cure.

Childhood cancer takes the lives of more children in the U.S. than any other disease – in fact, more than many other childhood diseases combined.  Progress is also especially slow in curing adolescents and young adults, because federal funding for childhood cancers is a fraction compared to adult cancers.  Therefore, attention needs to be brought to childhood cancer.

Progress can’t be made without research. Research can’t be done without funding. And funding can’t be done without awareness. Headbands of Hope aims to start with awareness and end with a cure.

Ever since I was a little girl, purpose has been close to my heart. My drive and work ethic came from knowing my sweat was going to fulfill a need, someway somehow. Cheri and here project “Running for Haiti” does exactly that. Run for purpose. In Cheri’s case, she saw a need in Haiti and used her passion for running as a tool to help.

Whether you’re selling headbands or running around Raleigh, look around you for an opportunity to make the world a better place!”

If you’re looking to make a difference, and you’re stumped, the best way to come up with an idea is to look at what you love.  Do you love to sing?  Do you love to dance?  Do you love chicken?  Find a way to turn that passion into action! And non-profit organizations love volunteers.  If there’s a cause you’re particularly stoked about, jump on board with a 501c3 that could use your skill.  It could turn into a job for you later!

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