This article has been posted as part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are giving back and creating change in communities around the globe.
Q1: How do you give back? (Please include the name(s) of any organizations you support.)
At Headbands of Hope, for every headband sold, one is given to a child with cancer. We donate headbands to hospitals all over the world (we’ve donated over 100,000 to date, reaching every children’s hospital in the United States) and we also host events to enhance the lives of the patients from proms and art therapy programs.
Q2: What inspired you to start giving?
During the summer of 2011, I did an internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I found that so many 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 that I knew I wanted to touch them and decided 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 had to take action and find my own way to help these girls. They’re already fighting for their lives, hair-loss and feeling beautiful both inside and out should be the last thing they have to worry about.
Q3: What does giving mean to you? Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
I believe at some point in our lives we’re going to wonder what we’ve done and if our actions are leaving the world better than we found it. To me, I realized that I wanted to be able to answer that question with confidence when I look back on my life and say I really did something to create positive change. No matter how hard business gets or what obstacles I run into, I can always say I’ve helped people and made an impact. To me, that’s what really matters at the end of the day.
Q4: What would you tell others (women and men) who are looking to start giving back? Share a piece of advice will help them get started.
In the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek, he defines the difference between success and achievement. Achievement comes when you attain what you want. Success comes when you’re in clear pursuit of why you want it.
It helped me realize that we need to stop seeing tangible achievements as our final destination. We can attain a new car and expensive vacations, but we can only feel success deep in our hearts, where it’s difficult to put those feelings into words.
The moment I open the door to a girl’s hospital room with a basket of headbands and see her smile, that’s when I feel true success. There’s no other way to explain it. There’s no numerical number I hit or competitor I beat. It’s just that feeling that I get where I know that all my hard work is making an impact and changing a life.
When you have a clear vision of your “why,” work doesn’t have to feel like work. My biggest piece of advice to other people is to not just find your why, but also keep it in clear sight. Put it in a frame, wear it on a bracelet, post it on your fridge. When things get hard, your why can get blurry. Always keep it in clear focus to help you through it.
Q5: Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
At the beginning of Headbands of Hope I received a letter from a mother of a daughter who received a headband while she was in the hospital treating her cancer. She said the daughter is now cancer free and about to start kindergarten but her hair hasn’t grown back yet. She’s been resistant to go to kindergarten because she’s afraid the kids will call her a boy. Her mom said when she got her headband in the hospital, she laid out her outfit and all of her school supplies for kindergarten because she was so excited to go. The headband gave her the confidence she needed, the confidence that she didn’t have before. Now we’ve received many stories like that, but that one in particular stands out because it was the first time I really realized what I was doing was making a greater impact.