Thin Blue Line Dons Thin Blue Bracelets
Jenn Ragucci of Wyckoff, NJ, sent us a wonderful photo of the Wyckoff NJ Police Department who she described as “proudly wearing alopecia areata support bracelets all month to support Alopecia Awareness. They are here with my daughter (her dad is the officer in plain clothes behind her)." NAAF posted the photo on our social media channels, and it got such a great response we asked Jenn to tell us the story of her daughter’s experience and how the boys and girls in blue came to wear the blue bracelets and spread awareness while also raising funds.
In January 2018 our daughter was diagnosed with alopecia areata. Over the next six months we watched as all of her hair fell out, followed by her eyebrows and her eyelashes. She is now bald and proud, but it has come with its challenges. Among the challenges we deal with are the people who stare or comment on her baldness. Most people believe she is bald because she is going through cancer treatments, so many times when we are out we are asked, “How are her treatments going?” or “What type of cancer does she have?” People tell us their survivor stories, which we love to hear, but it is exhausting explaining every single day that she has alopecia, not cancer. When I say “every single day,” I am not exaggerating. Every single day some comment is made to her. Sometimes it’s kind, but sometimes hurtful words are said. It is a lot for an eight-year-old to deal with and, as her mother, it breaks my heart.
When my daughter was first diagnosed, my husband and I had never heard of alopecia, and neither had our friends and family. I thought that if we could just spread a little awareness about what this disease is, it would at least help her in the community. September is Alopecia Awareness Month, and I thought that would be a perfect time to start our awareness campaign. I contacted the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and within days I had a huge package of alopecia bracelets in my hands. We started small and my daughter gave them to a few friends, her grandparents, her teachers and the priests at our church. My husband is a police officer in town, so I thought maybe if the officers all wore them we could really spread the word about what alopecia is. His “police family” happily agreed, and all the officers wore the “Free To Be Me” bracelets for the month. Many are still wearing them today. They even posed for a photo with her and another alopecia friend and posted it on their social media accounts. The PBA explained all about our daughter and what alopecia is. Our plan to spread awareness was working!
My husband’s friends and co-workers then surprised us by expanding on our efforts! Each October the officers grow beards to spread awareness and raise money for a cause. They individually donate money as does the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and the community. This year they donned “Beards for the Bold, Bald and Beautiful,” with all proceeds going to the NAAF! Uniformed police officers are generally not permitted to have beards, so every time someone sees an officer with a beard, they ask “Why?” Alopecia awareness is being spread throughout the community!
My daughter is happy and healthy. She doesn’t like wearing hats, and she doesn’t want to wear a wig, and we love that. We just want her to feel confident in who she is. We also want her to be able to go out without someone yelling “She has no hair!” or asking “How are you feeling?” We want to spread awareness about this disease for our daughter and all other alopecia warriors. Maybe over time, everyone will just see the bold, bald, and beautiful like we do.