Midtown Raleigh News

N.C. State junior’s headbands help fight cancer

Jessica Ekstrom is hoping to start a nationwide fashion trend.

The N.C. State junior has launched a company called Headbands of Hope, using flowery bits of fabric and elastic to battle a serious disease.

Ekstrom, 20, spent last summer interning with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Charlotte, but her compassion for children with cancer began at Walt Disney World. After her freshman year, she was an intern at the theme park, taking photographs of children on their Make-A-Wish trips.

“These kids just changed my life,” she said.

Ekstrom saw that many girls who lost their hair during chemotherapy did not want to wear wigs but still wanted to look pretty.

“They also don’t want to hide what they are going through,” said Ekstrom, who is from Cornelius, about 20 miles north of Charlotte.

She decided headbands were the answer.

“Headbands were the perfect way to boost their spirits and allow them to still keep their feminine side when they lose their hair during chemotherapy treatments.”

For each headband she sells, Ekstrom donates another band to St. Baldrick’s Foundation to be given to a girl with cancer. Headbands for Hope also will give $1 per headband sold to St. Baldrick’s, which funds research into childhood cancers.

The headbands are about $15 each and are available on her website, www.headbandsofhope.org. They also will be sold at Clothes Hound, Hayley’s Boutique and Uptown Cheapskate, and Ekstrom hopes to place them in more stores soon.

The communications major said N.C. State has been a great place to start her business, giving her a chance to consult with professors and students in design and business. “The resources and support I have gotten has been indescribable.”

Ekstrom wants those who buy the headbands to see them as a sign of hope.

“You can wear something that has meaning,” Ekstrom said. “I want them to feel like they’re a part of something bigger.”