Speaking out for the Children’s Alopecia Project
By Evan Dourdas
In July, I was fortunate to speak in front of more than 500 people at the Children’s Alopecia Project event, Alopeciapalooza, in Las Vegas. The Children’s Alopecia Project, better known as CAP, hosted hundreds of kids along with their families for a week. There were many bonding events, and activities consisted of people sharing their life stories and how they’ve dealt with alopecia, an autoimmune hair-loss disease. There were kids all the way from 5 to 17 years old participating. The speakers and volunteers were all adults ranging from 19 years and up.
Before my arrival, I didn’t have much experience talking in front of crowds. I’ve always been nervous speaking in front of large groups, but I knew I had to erase that fear and do this! I’d previously spoken to several kids about alopecia so that part wasn’t new to me, but in those experiences it was just a few kids. I met Ian, a student who attended Chestnut Hill Elementary, in May. His teacher got us together. I also met a young girl, Sophia, who I’ve become very close to over the years, and our relationship helped me understand alopecia and how it affects young kids.
For my presentation in Las Vegas, I talked about my struggles with alopecia, the support from my family, and how supportive my coaches and all of my teammates at Syracuse have been. I talked about how my good friend, Trevor Cooney ’16, was one of the first ones to really talk to me about it and help me understand I would be fine. The minute I knew Trevor had my back along with my other good friend Dajuan Coleman ’16, G’17, I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about anything when it came to alopecia. I also emphasized how supportive my parents and brothers were. A strong supporting cast really made me feel better about it. Ever since I arrived on campus, everyone from the athletic community to the students has been so understanding.
I gave away a few Syracuse hats to kids in the audience (courtesy of our equipment manager, Dan Shworles). The kids loved them and it took a lot of pressure off me while I engaged with the audience.
After my talk, I grabbed dinner with two fellow speakers, Kevin Bull, who is on American Ninja Warrior, and Anthony Carrigan, an actor who has appeared on The Flash and Gotham. It was amazing talking to people I share similarities with and hearing their stories. Kevin and Anthony are on TV a lot so they have a strong following, and it was nice to hear what they had to say about alopecia and how they’ve become who they are today.
I met so many new people and took a lot of pictures with the kids. It was really humbling seeing all these kids walking around bald, yet still with huge smiles on their faces regardless of what they look like. I’ve never felt more comfortable in front of that many people. Everyone was so kind and accepting to not just me, but to everyone in attendance. I told the kids that it’s just hair and they can’t let being bald affect how they live their lives. Everyone always tries to be different and stand out. With alopecia, we are uniquely different and we stand out by just being ourselves.
Evan Dourdas ’19, a walk-on player on the SU basketball team, is an economics major in the College of Arts and Sciences from Jamesville, New York.