Sunday, July 21, 2013

Love Yourself: My Wigs For Kids Story

I received the honor of representing Wigs For Kids at the Senior Games this past weekend. Below is my story about the experience I had with an incredible organization on behalf of an extraordinary student of mine. Enjoy! :-)

“If you love yourself, the hate of others becomes insignificant.”

These are incredible, inspirational words that should resonate with all of us. Who said these words? A teenage girl of just 17 years. A young lady by the name of Annie Robinson. How is it possible that such a young person can have such deep insight and perspective beyond the significance of shopping and boys? Well, Annie is far from your average teenager and a few months ago I learned why.

Annie was a student of mine in my Honors Biology class at Aurora High School during the 2011-2012 school year. She was a kind, smart, beautiful, soft-spoken girl with an infectious smile and positive aura. She was popular, athletic, and well-respected by her peers and teachers.  She was a true leader by example and the type of student every teacher wished for. I always knew Annie was more than just an average student. The better I came to know who her, the more special I knew she truly was.

Being the high quality student Annie is, she applied to be a member of the National Honor Society in the fall of 2012. I am the advisor of this distinguished extracurricular activity, and am responsible for preparing the applications for review. As I was sorting through each application in the Teacher Work Room, I came across one that had a pamphlet attached to it. This was Annie’s application, and I soon realized that the pamphlet was for Wigs For Kids. I am an avid runner, and have run many marathons, half marathons, 5ks, and other races. I ran a really fun and unique 5k at the Zoo for Wigs For Kids in 2011 , and was excited to see what Annie’s involvement was with such a wonderful organization. Upon opening the pamphlet, I saw Annie was pictured. She was receiving what I soon learned to be called Hair Replacement Treatment. I then quickly discovered something about this above average student I never knew: she had Alopecia. I could not believe that Annie, the beautiful, bright, confident student of mine was dealing with such a serious, chronic illness and I had no idea. She never let on that she was facing such a difficult illness, and never let it step in the way of being the wonderful lady she is. I read on, and learned that Annie was not just a recipient of treatment from Wigs For Kids, she served as their national spokesperson. I held on to the copy machine for a few minutes to catch my breath. I was literally blown away. Annie’s courage to represent all children facing the hardship of hair loss moved me in ways that are indescribable. It was a divine moment for me, indeed. I immediately decided I wanted to donate my hair. But, I felt compelled to do more and so I did my research.

I went home that night and searched the Internet for “Wigs For Kids.” I went to their website, watched Annie’s video, and also learned about other children facing difficulty with hair loss. My heart ached for these children. As I continued looking through their website, I learned about the amazing work done by Jeffrey Paul and the Wigs For Kids team. Through the creation of wigs and hair pieces, they help to ensure that every child in need has the ability to live their lives beyond their fullest potential, feeling beautiful on both the inside and out. I also learned that these wigs and hair pieces come completely from donation, and that there assembly is expensive.  Every Hair Replacement System costs $1800 to produce. At that point, I decided in addition to donating my hair, I wanted to dedicate my 11th marathon, the Cleveland Marathon, to Wigs For Kids. As I would be training for the marathon, I wanted to raise at minimum $1800.

I had never run for a charity before, and felt incredibly nervous to embark on this journey. This was more than just a charity for me and reaching my fundraising goal meant more than any race personal record. I was running for an organization that opened the door to an incredible life for my dear student, Annie, allowing her to become the exceptional young woman that I know her to be. The support and opportunities that Wigs For Kids has provided for her are truly miraculous. Throughout her experiences, she has managed to inspire so many countless individuals with her strength, courage, and positive attitude. It is because of Wigs For Kids that Annie is not trampled by her medical condition, but instead able to shine. Those inspirational words I initially stated that are written by Annie, “If you love yourself, the hate of others becomes insignificant,” were part of a beautiful essay she wrote this spring upon reflection of her life experiences. The essay was for The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Stop the Hate contest, and among the all of the essays submitted Annie was selected as a top finalist. Upon presentation of her essay at Severance Hall, she was selected as the first place winner, and was awarded a $50,000 scholarship. Annie’s ability to turn a hurdle in her life into a stepping stone sets such an amazing example for all of us, and further inspired me to want to give back to Wigs For Kids on her behalf.

It meant a great deal to me to complete my Wigs For Kids Cleveland Marathon journey successfully, and so I prayed emphatically and was hopeful that others would help me reach my goal. With the support and encouragement from Annie, her parents, my family and friends, the Aurora City School District and community, and many others, I was able to surpass my goal and raised over $3,000 and donated well over 12 inches of my hair. The trials and tribulation that came along with my marathon training were miniscule knowing I was able to give back in ways I couldn’t have imagined to Wigs For Kids. In conclusion to my journey, I completed my 11th marathon, the Cleveland Marathon as 17th overall female with Annie cheering me to the finish. Despite being the day after prom, Annie was there to show her support and proved to me that angels come in human form. She is a standout individual far from your average teenager, dedicated to supporting and representing the organization that she has done so much for, as it has done so much for her. To say that knowing Annie and having had this experience has had a positive impact on my life is an understatement. I have since made it my lifelong goal to continue to donate my hair to Wigs For Kids and to help promote the goodness that they do in any way possible.

I encourage all of you to join us on Saturday, July 27 for the 8th Annual Wigs For Kids Day at the Zoo. Whether you want to walk, run in the 5k, check out Zoo animals with your family, make a monetary or hair donation, you will be helping individuals facing the difficulty of hair loss become the remarkable young people they are meant to be. In doing so we can help all of them, like Annie, learn to love themselves, so the hate of others becomes insignificant.



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