Difference Makers: Peekskill sisters with alopecia hope to inspire and support others facing adversity

Caitlin and Lauren Brady
Caitlin and Lauren Brady Photo credit This Is Me Foundation

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — COVID-19 can't stop two sisters from Peekskill from helping young people facing adversity, especially teens with alopecia.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports, Lauren and Caitlin Brady radiate positive energy.

"Kindness is so infectious, and positivity," Caitlin said.

"We're just literally trying to help people be kinder, be more open and understanding to what each other is going through and we all  need that, especially now, we're better people for it and we want to make other people feel better as well," Lauren said.

For a decade, they've helped people through their charity, This Is Me Foundation.

"We raise money for scholarships. Our This is Me Foundation scholarships are in the name of two of our friends that passed away — Ryan Risco and Caitlin Chivonne Polhill," Catilin said.

The foundation grew out of their own personal struggle — hair loss. The sisters started losing hair in high school due to the autoimmune disease alopecia.

"Your hair just started thinning, you're in high school and it was definitely tough. People can be harsh and that's kind of part of our mission. You never know what somebody's going through and just to be kind to everybody," Lauren said.

They’ve made it their mission to help support others who are struggling.

"You wouldn't believe how many kids all over the United States have alopecia and they feel heard because now there's a scholarship available to them that wasn't," Lauren said.

"We had so much support from all of our fundraisers that we were able to go from local scholarships to add on national scholarships strictly for kids that have alopecia," Caitlin said. "As far as we know are the only scholarship available in the United States for alopecia.”

This  year the foundation is giving out 13 $500 scholarships locally and nationally.

The local scholarships are for teens who have endured adversity.

"Even a lot of people locally that don't have alopecia but are dealing with other things kind of turn to us. They'll send us messages sometimes and just say, 'I just watched your video again and it just helped me get through the day.' They're saying that we're inspiring them, but they are always inspiring us, which is amazing, Lauren said.

Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic canceled this year's main fundraiser — an annual polar bear plunge in the Hudson River.

Nevertheless, the Brady sisters keep scraping together donations.

Their foundation got started 10 years ago.

As they grappled with hair loss, the Brady sisters drew inspiration from a Miss America contestant who has alopecia, Miss Delaware Kayla Martell.

"For the record, she did take off her wig at the end of the Miss America pageant and was on that stage without it and she was so stunningly beautiful it was amazing," Lauren said.

At that moment, the Brady sisters decided to do good deeds. Thus, the foundation was born.

It was a defining moment for Caitlin.

"It was just almost liberating. Like we could almost feel what Kaylah felt taking off her wig,” Caitlin said. “Ten years later, especially post-pandemic, I'm going without my wig all the time and I don't know if that could have happened without Kayla, but it definitely started the discussion and how good that made us feel, how liberated we felt.”

This Is Me Foundation promotes acceptance, compassion, and understanding.

The sisters are not only trying to help others with the foundation’s scholarship, but also strive to send a message out to others: "You are not alone."

"We like to share our ups and downs and so what we would share is that it's okay to have a bad day,” Lauren said. “It's okay to feel however you feel and we're here to talk to you and it's always just a journey of figuring out who you are, figuring out how to deal with it and just understanding that you're going to have ups and downs and that's okay. It doesn't have to be perfect every day."

In spite of the pandemic, they continue to collect donations and are determined to issue scholarships this year.

They believe kindness is contagious.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: This Is Me Foundation