Redefining Philanthropy

I recently attended a speech given by Headbands of Hope founder and CEO, Jess Ekstrom. If you were like me and were not aware of what Headbands of Hope is, I’ll fill you in. Headbands of Hope not only designs adorable headbands (I just purchased one tonight), but helps kids fight cancer. For every headband purchased, one is given to a child with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund childhood cancer research. Jess is not only an excellent example of an inspiring young person creating an incredible company (she’s only 23!), but she also dedicates her life to helping save children’s lives, which is something I am passionate about.

For those of you who may not know, I am a student at Penn State University, where I am involved with Penn State’s Dance Marathon, affectionately known as THON. THON is the largest student run philanthropy in the entire world, and is a 46-hour, no sleeping, no sitting dance marathon benefiting the children of Hershey Medical Center who are fighting cancer. This year, I am serving THON as a Communications Captain where I assist other grade schools, high schools, and universities in creating their own dance marathons.

 (THON Weekend)

My fight to end pediatric cancer began as a grade school when my friend was diagnosed with cancer. My passion only grew in high school and then in college, when I came to Penn State and joined THON. I could honestly talk about THON for days on end; it’s not just one weekend, but an entire year long effort. I would even go as far to say that is it a lifelong effort to end pediatric cancer.

Jess’ speech really got me thinking about philanthropy and what it means to help others. She created an incredible company that not only raises money for cancer, but brightens the days of children diagnosed with cancer. I’ve seen thousands of students stand on their feet with no sleep for practically two days to show their support for kids fighting cancer. This post is not about me asking you to donate money. It’s about me asking you to ‘redefine philanthropy’.


When it comes down to it, philanthropy is not just a monetary donation. Philanthropy is about giving to others without a thought about yourself. Yes, your feet might hurt from standing for 32 hours with 14 more to go. Jess’ business did not begin as she had planned, when a supplier stole money from her, but her passion for helping kids fight cancer was so strong that she didn’t quit.

Philanthropy is about having a drive deep in your heart to make the world a better place, whether it’s by standing in the freezing cold asking for monetary donations or by starting a company to help others. We often tell ourselves that we’ll get around to doing something ‘tomorrow’, or ‘I’ll do that when I have more time’. There is honestly no better time to help someone than right now. Truly, right now. Somewhere in the world, someone is in need of medicine, food, water; something. There is something you can do, whether it is donating or volunteering, to improving someone’s life who desperately needs it. And let me tell you, there is no better feeling in the entire world than knowing you were able to play a role in making someone’s day, or life, just a little bit better.

So let a kid paint your face with colors that don’t match, or volunteer at an animal shelter for a weekend afternoon.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”.

For The Kids,


You can donate to THON by clicking here and check out Headbands of Hope on Twitter @HeadbandsofHope


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One response to “Redefining Philanthropy”

  1. […] I was first introduced to Headbands of Hope in college when I heard their founder Jessica give a fantastic speech on campus and was so inspired by her message. With Penn State’s THON so close to my heart, […]

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