Ellie's Hats: Donations to Va. child with cancer becomes charity - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Ellie's Hats: Donations to Va. child with cancer becomes charity

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Ellie Whitfield Ellie Whitfield
FALLS CHURCH, Va. -

The inclination of a public school teacher to help a kindergartner cope with cancer may turn into a full-fledged charity. This is the story of Ellie’s Hats.

Five-year-old Ellie Whitfield is now growing a short, but thick, crop of red hair on her head. Last year, Ellie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which required immediate chemotherapy. She lost all of her hair as a kindergartner, and started wearing hats every day to Woodburn Elementary School in Falls Church, Va.

Jennica Whitfield, Ellie’s mom, says her daughter sometimes feels quite unwell from the chemotherapy, but does not mind wearing hats.

“Even when she was a baby, she loved to wear hats,” said Jennica. “She’s always been kind of a ‘hat girl.’ So it was just kind of a natural transition for her. It wasn’t a big deal to wear hats.”

Ellie’s physical education teacher at Woodburn, Jay Coakley, noticed the kindergartner loved her hats, so he organized a hat drive, which vastly expanded Ellie’s choice of chapeaus.

Jennica Whitfield told us, “She has, really, a lot of fun hats to wear. Every morning I’ll say, ‘Ellie what hat do you want to wear?’ And she says, ‘Bring me my hats.’ And she takes the bag and she looks through, and decides what hats she wants to wear for the day.”

Coakley used social media to spread the word about Ellie’s Hats, and an eighth grader in Loudoun County decided to try to get hat donations from all 50 states. That she accomplished in four-and-a-half days.

The surplus hats got donated to other families of young children getting cancer treatments at local hospitals and clinics.

“And the feedback we got from the parents of the kids that got the hats was very positive,” according to Coakley. “So, in January, we started Ellie’s Hats, named after Ellie. And we collect and donate hats to children with cancer.”

Ellie’s Hats is in the process of becoming a permanent, tax-exempt charity.

For the Whitfields, the donation of hats made a difference.

“It was kind of fun to have her hat stash triple overnight, where she had lots and lots of hats to choose from,” said Ellie’s mother. “And she loves it. And she puts them on her siblings. She makes us wear them.”

The prognosis for Ellie is very good. She may lose her hair again, with more than a year of chemotherapy still ahead. But if Ellie does lose her hair, she will have plenty of hats to wear.

For more information about Ellie’s Hats:

http://ellieshats.org

https://twitter.com/ElliesHats

https://www.facebook.com/ellieshats

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