When Holly Christensen made a Rapunzel wig for her friend's 3-year-old daughter who was battling cancer, she had no idea that this small gesture would bring smiles and happiness to thousands of other children all over the world, kids who were also fighting for their lives.
“The first wig I made was for my daughter’s friend Lilly and, since she loves princesses, I thought this wig would help brighten her day after losing her long, blonde curls to chemotherapy,” says Christensen. “She loved the wig and her mother loved seeing Lily smile again, so she suggested I make more for other children.”
When this first started back in 2014, Christensen had planned on making just a few dozen princess wigs for children in Alaska, where she lives. But in September the following year, a Facebook post asking for yarn donations quickly went viral. Within a week, The Magic Yarn Project was born.
As a former oncology nurse, she knows that hair loss is a difficult change for children to adjust to, on top of all the other side-effects that accompany cancer treatments. Chemotherapy treatments often leave young scalps too sensitive for traditional wigs, but these yarn-wigs are comfy, soft and warm.
“Not only are the wigs comfortable for children to wear, they offer a magical and fun escape from the scary and painful world they are surrounded by,” she said.
After the first few wigs were created, Christensen and co-founder Bree Hitchcock decided to turn the project into a non-profit organization (that they run out of Christensen’s small garage) in order to receive tax-exempt donations and more financial support.
The project is funded entirely by donations and run by volunteers. Christensen herself usually spends between 20 and 40 hours a week on Magic Yarn, in addition to her part-time nursing job, being a mom to three small children and helping her husband run his own business.
They style the wigs after popular Disney characters like Rapunzel, Ariel, Elsa, Jasmine, Belle, Anna, Rainbow and pirate Captain Jack Sparrow.
“Since we began a year ago, there has been little sleep or rest, and I involve my children in helping as much as they can. It is so much work, but so rewarding to bring this joy to children all over the world and involve volunteers from around the world as well,” she said.
Their mission and action is inspiring others to also lend a hand.
More than 800 people from all over the country have gotten involved volunteering to help make this magic happen. “I love that this project can involve everyone and reach children everywhere,” Christensen said. “And I love that something so simple has ignited a fire of volunteerism in so many. We have adopted the motto that Magic is for Everyone and anyone can be involved in making a difference in the lives of children with cancer.”
More than 81,000 young children are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. The group's “magic” is reaching children all over the world.
There have been 1,300 wigs made in the past 13 months and the group projects they'll hit the 1,500 wig mark by the end of 2016. The wigs have been sent to children in 23 different countries on every continent—a priority for these two women.
“We have learned that many wonderful organizations that benefit children with cancer do not reach beyond the U.S. and Canadian borders, and that many children in third-world countries don't have access to such organizations,” Christensen explained.
Last December, the group received an email from the father of a little girl named Marie from Belgium who was battling leukemia. Marie's Elsa wig had arrived just in time for Christmas, and it was her favorite gift.
"Since she first received her wig, Marie has been breaking out in 'Frozen' serenades all day long. She has also been suffering from giggles and smiles that won’t go away," Marie's father said. "You can't imagine the joy it brings to a father to see his child smile again."
The father's email made her realize the wigs are also therapeutic for the whole family, which suffers during a child's life-threatening illness and treatments.
“Loved ones get equal amounts of joy seeing their sick child be able to forget for a moment that they have cancer and instead are able to just be kids again, dressing up and playing make believe,” she said.
The Magic Yarn Project has a list of ways volunteers can get involved and donate. The group also has a GoFundMe page, and they are currently focusing on trying to get a Kickstarter Campaign funded by reaching $10,000 in the next 18 days. Those funds will allow us to make and ship off 200 wigs in January 2017.
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer, wife and mother to Hanna age 9 and Cooper age 7. When she's not writing or spending time with her family, you can find her hanging out with teenagers at her day job as a school counselor.