“Love your body. Bald is beautiful.” are two of the first things bubbly, nine-year-old Rosie Quinn says when you meet her. Rosie, whose chipper voice espouses much wisdom for her young age, 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.
In so many ways, Rosie is your typical child. She is in third grade and says “softball, swim team and piano lessons are my jam.” Yet, having been bald since she was 2 years old, dealing with curiosity and stares of strangers has taught Rosie to rise above and kindly navigate the inquiries; smiling, introducing herself, quickly explaining alopecia and closing the conversation with “what makes you different?”
While Rosie never felt the need to hide her bald head, at times she grew weary of the explanations. Rosie’s mother Paula said the family placed their focus on “raising a little girl who loves herself unconditionally, hair or no hair.” Making colorful and lively drawings and paintings are also Rosie’s jam. 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.
Her goal was twofold. Rosie would be proud to wear her beautiful 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. Paula said, Rosie “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?’”
Rosie’s mother discovered that any drawings could be printed onto fabric – creating custom headwear for those facing challenging hair lines. From this realization, 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.
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. Lately, the word about the indomitable Rosie, is really getting out. Orders for smile kits have started to come in from as far as Canada, Ireland and Australia!
“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.
For the first time in 18 years, coronavirus caused the cancellation of the Red Cross Heroes Breakfast, but stories of resilience and determination prevail. These “Everyday Extraordinary Heroes” live among us. Watch their stories every Tuesday & Thursday starting April 14 at 10 a.m. in social media.
You can support the American Red Cross during this Coronavirus outbreak at Redcross.org/ChicagoHero.