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Just Your Average Teenager, Who Happens to be Bald

Olivia Rusk encourages acceptance and promotes anti-bullying

April 2012

Olivia Rusk is just an average teenager who just happens to be bald. Her message of motivation and encouragement has flooded the hearts of many.

For someone who is only 14-years-old, she has filled a lot of roles. She has modeled, delivered numerous motivational speeches and became a Kidcaster for Radio Disney 98.3 FM Indianapolis.

Now the high school freshman from Fishers has a self-published book, "Just Your Average Teenager Who Happens to Be Bald", which came out in February. With corporate sponsors, such as Kroger, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Dr. Angela Henriksen and The Women Like Us Foundation, they hope to donate 20,000 books to Indiana junior-high students for free. A total of 1,284 books have been donated so far.

For more information or to order a copy of the book, visit www.oliviascause.org.

Olivia has alopecia, an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles.

Her condition started when she was just 18-months-old. With what began as one small bare spot, soon her hair was coming out in handfuls. Olivia was completely bald within four weeks.

"I was devastated, and determined to find the answers, so we went through several doctors and numerous types of treatment," Sandy Rusk, Olivia's mother, said. "We ended up with Dr. Patricia Treadwell at Riley Children's Hospital, who prescribed a topical steroid and women's Rogaine. Olivia's hair began to re-grow, and she had most of her hair back from ages 4 to 8."

Short-lived, her hair soon began falling out again at the age of 8. Olivia began to think her custom natural wig was uncomfortable, itchy and hot.

"Against my better judgment, she shed her wig and went to school without hair," said Sandy. "That day changed our lives forever."

"She tried to talk me out of it, but I had decided that is what I wanted to do," Olivia said.

"I realized that Olivia was going to deal with her hair loss in her own way, even though see was only 8-years-old," said Sandy. "Soon after, we founded Olivia's Cause to create awareness and offer support for people affected by alopecia. Olivia's message quickly evolved into an anti-bullying, and teen suicide prevention message."

Olivia speaks out against bullying through her group, Olivia's Cause. Although she has never been bullied herself, she knows others with alopecia have been bullied so she wanted to get involved.

Her lecture program has allowed her to share her inspirational story to kids and students in audiences as large as 2,000.

The reason for Olivia's book, "Just Your Average Teenager Who Happens To Be Bald", is to share her message with kids that she may not have the opportunity to speak to in person.

Her story has inspired thousands of kids across the globe with Facebook messages and emails pouring in daily.

Although Olivia's favorite thing is to read those emails, it can get challenging balancing school and her appearances.

"Sometimes, that is really hard," she said. "I am in the drumline at my high school and we have lots of rehearsals and competitions. I have homework and my speeches and appearances. It can get crazy and that is part of the reason that I wrote the book."

Olivia has won several awards, such as the Power Of Children Award from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis in 2009 and in 2010 she won the Driven Like Danica Contest. She won the Well Dunn Award from Coach Dunn of The Indiana Fever in both 2010 and 2011 and she recently won the 2012 Jefferson Award from WRTV, Channel 6 News.

"I am so proud that having alopecia could have devastated Olivia's life has given her a powerful platform, with her brave stance and her ability to share her story," said Sandy.

Tags: In This Issue, Local, Tweens & Teens

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