Student's mentorship teaches children to feel beautiful and confident
August 6, 2021
When Marcy Gallant was six years old, the second year King’s student was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. It is an auto-immune disease that causes hair loss. When she was 10, she lost 90% of the hair on her head and by 19, was fully “Universalis,” meaning she had lost all the hair on her body.
Growing up, there was little awareness about Alopecia Areata, leaving Gallant without the proper resources, support or, most importantly, an individual with the same condition to look up to and help her along.
“I struggled for a long time due to society's stereotypes of beauty and what I needed to look like to fit it in,” says Gallant.
While not having a mentor herself, Gallant decided to be that person for others with Alopecia. Her goal was to help children with Alopecia build their confidence early on, teaching them that bald is beautiful and represents strength.
“I want to normalize baldness and raise awareness. It is important to me to be that voice for those children that advocates, supports, and inspires in any way possible,” says Gallant.
She began mentoring children with Alopecia who she had met through social media (with parental consent). She says being a mentor is important in actively supporting people within the community “to feel beautiful and confident within their own skin. You are acting as a guide, a light as some would say during a terribly traumatic time.”
Gallant considers herself fortunate to be studying at King’s, a school that offers a wide variety of classes to help improve her mentorship efforts. She was drawn towards Childhood and Youth Studies because of the advocacy courses that will strengthen and enhance her skills. “Seeing children as active agents in our community is very important in moving forward towards a more inclusive society,” says Gallant.
She was contacted by the Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation (CANAAF) and asked if she would be interested in being part of their new program to match people of all aged with Alopecia with mentors.
CANAAF promotes awareness and education and offers a network to those diagnosed with all forms of Alopecia with support groups from across Canada. Since 2012, they have hosted an annual national summer conference which allows adults, teens, children and their families to gather, learn about alopecia, share experiences and make new friends.
“Of course, I jumped at the chance to continue my mentorship on a larger scale,” says Gallant. She says, to be a mentor, you have to be able to listen and support. Being a mentor involves time, patience, and displaying an optimistic and friendly attitude.”
Gallant says she has many things to pass along to the young people she mentors. She says she loves telling those she mentors “they were given this for a reason as they were born with so much strength and love to conquer the hard times and help change the world’s perception of beauty. Alopecia has a beautiful way of providing a fresh perspective, it makes us more empathetic towards others and gifts us with extra resilience than we once had.”
Gallant’s efforts have been appreciated by the children she has mentored, as well as their parents. “Our family is so thankful to have been connected with Marcy through CANAAF. She is an incredible young woman who is unwaveringly generous with her time. Her positive attitude and caring spirit make her a wonderful role model for our 11-year-old daughter who was recently diagnosed with Alopecia,” says the parent of one of the children Marcy has mentored.
London Free Press: London student goes from losing hair to gaining courage as alopecia activist