Group donates headbands inspired by girl’s cancer fight
Before she was 3 years old, Brooke Hester was rarely seen without a bow or flower pinned in her thin, light-brown hair.
Since she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma a year ago, Brooke’s hair pins have been replaced with headbands decorated with flowers, bows, feathers and beads.
The headbands are the inspiration for Brooke’s Blossoms, a fundraiser and childhood cancer awareness program created by the 4-year-old’s neighbor Sunnie Jo Stewart and Brooke’s family in South Texas.
“Brooke always had flowers or bows on her head,” Stewart said. “I wanted to give her a way to still wear them and express herself while raising awareness for childhood cancers.”
The group has donated nearly a thousand blossoms across the United States, including the family’s native Dallas-Fort Worth, and as far as Tokyo.
The blossoms are given to girls who have lost their hair in battles against cancer as a way for them to express themselves, said Brooke’s mom, Jessica Hester.
Brooke’s own battle began in 2010, when she started to get inexplicable fe- vers and stomachaches, and then developed a limp.
After several months of testing and surgery, doctors found a large tumor in her abdomen pressing on her spine and organs and diagnosed Stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, her mother said.
In November 2010, days after Brooke began chemotherapy, her hair began to fall out.
Stewart wanted to find a way to raise money for research and help Brooke feel more like herself, so she began crafting headbands out of bows, flowers and other materials.
Funds for the materials come from donations from the community, and anything left over goes to foundations that fund research and clinical trials such as the one Brooke is undergoing in New York.
“Brooke’s Blossoms is a small project that made a bigger impact than we ever could have imagined,” her mother said.
Jessica, a Decatur native who now lives in Kingsville, gave up her job as a teacher to be with Brooke full time in New York. Her husband, Beau, works in the Tarrant County town of Kennedale and visits Brooke as often as he can.
“Right now, Brooke comes first,” Jessica said. “She’s our top priority. If there’s anything else we can help with for a foundation or for Brooke’s Blossoms, we do it. Without our home community and the community we have found through this, none of it would be possible.”
Brooke not only wears the headbands but has begun helping to decorate and pack them before handing them out to other children.
Hester said her daughter is consumed by the spirit of giving, which she hopes will continue to make her treatments bearable.
“She can be having a rough day, a day when doctors drilled into her pelvis, medicine and treatments,” her mother said, “but the second she has a bag of the blossoms in hand, she’s focused on other people instead of her pain.”
And if she doesn’t have a spare headband handy, she’ll gladly give up her own for another sick girl.
“Often, Brooke will see a child in the center who is new and she will take the headband right off her head to give to them,” Hester said. “She is thinking of other people before herself, and that’s huge.”
Brooke went from not being able to walk last year to being able to run, skip, hop, dance and play, her mother said.
“We’re taking things one day at a time.”
Brooke thinks of the project as a way to spread smiles to other girls like her.
“I love being able to give the blossoms to other kids I see whose hair has fallen out too,” Brooke said. “It makes the other girls smile and laugh, and that makes me smile.”