Teenage Advocate Empowers and Supports Other Teens
Teenager with Alopecia Creates Support Kits to Empower Other Teens, Prepares to Earn Girl Scouts Gold Award
Two years ago, Gabby ran her fingers through her hair and discovered three bald patches, each almost the size of her palm. Today, Gabby, 17, a high school junior in California, is close to earning one of the Girl Scouts’ highest honors for her work in supporting other young students who have been diagnosed with alopecia areata.
When Gabby, who has been involved with the Girl Scouts since kindergarten, learned she had alopecia areata – an autoimmune disease that causes patchy hair loss — she quickly accepted her new circumstances with the support of her family, friends, teachers, and Girl Scout community. Her biggest challenge has been the steroid injections in her scalp, although her parents treat her to her favorite cinnamon sugar sticks at the bakery afterwards, which makes the treatment more tolerable.
She soon turned her focus on helping others like her and developed Project Alopecia. Through Project Alopecia, she creates tote bags for elementary, middle-school, and high school students who have been diagnosed with alopecia areata. The tote bags are filled with informational pamphlets from both medical organizations and alopecia support organizations, along with her own brochure explaining what alopecia is and how it can be treated. Additionally, the tote bags contain pens, stickers, pins, pencils, and a headscarf that have been donated by these organizations, and a book that has been donated by Gabby’s family, friends, and other supporters. So far, Gabby has given away nearly 100 kits to students in and around San Diego.
With Project Alopecia, Gabby not only is providing information, support, and inspiration to other young people living with alopecia areata, she is also on her way to earning the Girl Scouts Gold Award. The Girl Scouts Gold Award is the highest achievement that a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador can earn. It is a prestigious recognition that demonstrates a girl’s dedication, leadership, and commitment to making a positive difference in her community and the world. Only about 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts earn the award. It is a symbol of excellence and leadership that is recognized by universities, employers, and organizations across the United States.
Gabby’s mom, Sally, is inspired by her daughter. “There were times I would cry silently as I watched her beautiful, thick hair fall out in clumps and become so thin you could see her scalp. Mostly, I have watched in awe as she kept a positive attitude the entire time. Gabby has kept an Instagram blog chronicling her hair loss journey. She never hid it from anyone. She showed her bald spots, her steroid injections in her scalp, her trying on different hair pieces, and all the little strands of hair that would stick out as they grew back in. She went on her high school’s morning television program to tell the entire school that she is one of the 6.7 million people in the U.S. who is living with alopecia; and that there is no cure. With her kits, Gabby reassures other kids that there is help, and that everything will be ok. Gabby is an inspiration to so many people.”
Gabby is proud to be a source of support and empowerment for others, and looks forward to earning her Gold Award. “I would like to thank everyone who has supported me through my journey with alopecia areata and throughout my work on my Gold Award project. I can’t wait until I can say that I am a Gold Award Girl Scout!”
Gabby has created an Amazon Wish List where people can purchase books to be donated for inclusion in the tote bags.
The Autoimmune Association applauds Gabby for her work supporting the autoimmune community. “Young people like Gabby are an essential force for positive change in society, and their involvement is crucial for shaping a better future,” said Molly Murray, Autoimmune Association president and CEO. “Gabby’s passion, energy, and motivation for helping others is an example of how youth and young adults can take action. We hope her story will encourage more young people to get involved and use their voices to make a difference.”
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