“What makes you different?” This is a question that nine-year-old Rosie Quinn, whose bubbly and chipper voice espouses much wisdom for her young age, asks when first meeting someone that might be curious about her bald head. Rosie was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, alopecia, at two years old. This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss and baldness.
Rosie, who in so many ways is a typical third grader, loves softball, swim team, piano lessons and art. And throughout this she has never felt the need to hide her bald head. “Love your body. Bald is beautiful,” she says. Yet, having been bald since she was 2 years old, Rosie at times grew weary of the explanations, curiosity and stares of strangers.
Rosie’s mother Paula said the family placed their focus on “raising a little girl who loves herself unconditionally, hair or no hair.” One day Rosie’s mother had a brilliant idea and decided to take one of Rosie’s beautiful paintings and have it printed as a headscarf for Rosie, in hopes that she would be proud to wear her amazing artwork and perhaps the focus of strangers would be on the beautiful scarf and not on Rosie’s hair loss.
The family surprised Rosie with a head scarf using one of her prized paintings. When Rosie’s family surprised her with the head scarf, her mother said she “was overjoyed, and quickly blurted out, ‘What about the other bald kids? We should make these for all the bald kids who look like me. Can we do that?’”
The Quinn family put together a plan for creating scarves and capes ‘for the other bald kids’ and started the non-profit, Coming Up Rosies. The mission is to restore confidence, happiness and pride to anyone struggling with low self-esteem during their medical journey, especially bald children.
The work is truly a family affair: Rosie, her six-year-old sister Caroline, her mom and dad assemble “smile kits” at their dining room table. The kits have all the creative tools needed for children to make their own scarf or cape. Since 2016, they’ve donated 1,500 smile kits to 20 hospitals and rehabilitation centers around the country, including Lurie Children’s Hospital where Rosie began her medical journey. This is why the Red Cross has honored Rosie with the Youth Hero award, sponsored by ITW.
“When I put on the headscarf, I’m confident. I want to give all the other kids facing baldness this confidence too. It is my goal to give ‘smile kits’ to all the bald kids in the world,” Rosie beams.
Since COVID-19, Rosie has been working at home, shipping out Smile Kits to kids in need. “I’ve been thinking of making masks out of my headscarves since there is a shortage…I think my head scarves could do the trick. The doctors and nurses can be stylish and protected while saving lives,” she told the Red Cross.
Rosie was to receive her award at the Red Cross of Illinois’ annual Heroes Breakfast, which was cancelled because of coronavirus. We hope you are inspired by her story, and consider donating to the Red Cross at www.redcross.org/ChicagoHero. Right now, the impact of your gift will be doubled by a generous match.
Better is honored to be a sponsor of the Heroes Breakfast and to collaborate with the Red Cross to share the inspiring stories of all the 2020 Heroes too.