Crowns of Courage

Leah Seidelmann, Ashlyn and Rachel Semro shed light on a special cause.

Photos by Stephanie Heymann Photography

When Ashlyn was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening blood disorder at the age of 10 and told she needed a bone marrow transplant, one of her biggest fears was losing her hair. Just weeks before Ashlyn was scheduled to be admitted to Phoenix Children's Hospital, her family learned of a special type of halo wig that is made using real hair. Ashlyn was able to cut her own hair and send it away to be returned in the form of a halo wig. Wearing this wig boosted her self-esteem, renewed her confidence, and allowed her to feel normal around her friends.  

It made such a difference in Ashlyn's recovery that she knew she had to do something to help other children. Most families in a medical crisis simply do not have money to spend on a wig. Medical bills, copays, time off of work, and countless other expenses are bigger priorities during treatment. This is how Crowns of Courage was born! 
Crowns of Courage is a 501(c)3 organization that provides halo wigs to children who have lost their hair to chemotherapy at absolutely no cost to the family. A halo wig differs from a traditional wig in that the hair is sewn onto a breathable mesh cap so that it’s not hot or itchy to a child’s sensitive scalp. Kids can wear a hat, beanie, or scarf, and it is nearly impossible to see that they are wearing a wig and, even more importantly, that they are sick. 
In the past seven years, we have gifted almost 700 custom-made halo wigs to pediatric cancer patients in 38 different states, including Arizona, of course. The application process is simple and easy, and no patient is ever denied. We rely heavily on the support and generosity of our community to provide us with funding and hair donations, which are used for those recipients who have already lost their hair. Some of our biggest financial sponsors are W.D. Manor, Land Advisors, Thunderbird Charities, Scottsdale Charros, and Scottsdale 20/30 Club.  
Our hope is that one day there will be a cure for childhood cancer; until that time, our mission is to reach as many children as possible in the United States. Not only are we committed to helping young patients overcome the fear of chemotherapy-related hair loss, but we are also determined to raise awareness.  
Most people don’t know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. The statistics surrounding childhood cancer are staggering. Cancer is the number one cause of disease-related death in children under the age of 15 in the U.S. Research and drug development are severely underfunded. Less than 4% of federal funding annually goes to childhood cancer research in the U.S. 
The majority of medications used for pediatric patients today were developed over 50 years ago and were meant for adults. Not only are these medicines incredibly outdated, but pediatric cancers do not behave the same way as adult cancers. The side effects of these treatments lead to lifelong chronic health conditions such as hearing loss, heart failure, infertility, learning disabilities, vision loss, diminished lung function, digestive issues, and secondary cancers. 
There are many ways to get involved in order to bring attention to this incredibly important issue, from something as simple as changing your social media profile to “Go Gold” in September to attending events and educating yourself about the hard truths surrounding childhood cancer. Grab a yellow ribbon this month and show all these kids and their families that no one fights alone!  
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