Headbands for Hope Turns Heads at a National Level

Headbands of Hope, an organization created by an N.C. State student last year, has been getting a lot of attention for its work with childhood cancer patients.

Various companies and media outlets, such as NBC's Today Show, Family Circle, Fitness and TOMS Shoes, have recognized and endorsed the organization.

Founder and CEO Jessica Ekstrom, a senior in communication, said she was very excited about all the attention Headbands of Hope was receiving.

"It's something that I always dreamed would happen," said Ekstrom.

Ekstrom founded Headbands of Hope in April 2012, after interning with the Make a Wish Foundation. As an intern, Ekstrom noticed a lot of young girls who had lost their hair to chemotherapy wearing headbands as a mark of their feminine identity.

Ekstrom said she created Headbands of Hope to instill hope and confidence in girls of all ages and conditions, and to fund childhood cancer research.

For every headband sold, the organization will provide a headband to a girl with cancer. Ekstrom modeled this after the TOMS Shoes "one for one" policy. Additionally, for every headband sold, the company donates one dollar to St. Baldrick's Foundation for childhood cancer research.

"It's unfathomable how many girls we can impact with just one headband," Ekstrom said.

Since its inception, the organization has donated more than 3,000 headbands and $3,000. That number is growing every day, said Ekstrom.

Retailers across the state, including the University's bookstore, sell the headbands. They are also available for purchase online at www.headbandsofhope.org. The headbands come in a wide range of colors, prints and styles. Bumper stickers and T-shirts are also available for purchase.

Additionally, Headbands of Hope is in the process of creating a line for boys, Headwear of Hope, which should be available sometime this year, Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom said she is proud to have the headbands manufactured in Bismarck, N.D.

"It was really important to me for the headbands to be made in the U.S.," Ekstrom said. "It was challenging to find a manufacturer, but it was well worth it."

Ekstrom worked with the College of Textiles and the College of Design when she was in the process of starting the business and said it was great to have their support. Both schools helped Ekstrom with "brainstorming ideas" and locating a manufacturer.

"The support of N.C. State has been fantastic. Having the Wolfpack behind me the whole way has been a really special experience," Ekstrom said.

Currently, there are over 20 campus representatives for the organization at schools around the nation, according to Ekstrom.

Representatives promote the organization and distribute headbands, among dealing with other responsibilities.

"[Being a representative] is a great way to get involved and gain marketing experience," Ekstrom said.

Students at N.C. State can involve themselves as well, according to Ekstrom. Ekstrom said she is looking for a campus group or sorority to promote the organization, sell headbands, and maintain the presence of Headbands of Hope on campus.

"It would be great to have a sorority throw a headband mixer," Ekstrom said.
Ekstrom said she was also looking for students to serve as campus representatives to fill her shoes after she graduates this year.

By Jessica Hatcher