Girl, With Condition Causing Baldness, Embraces Her Difference - New York News

Girl, With Condition Causing Baldness, Embraces Her Difference

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BERKS COUNTY, Pa. -

15-year-old Maddie Woytovich is a typical teenage girl. She loves hanging with her friends, she fights with her sisters and enjoys summer breaks volunteering at the local playground.

But there's one noticeable difference that separates Maddie from other girls her age. She has no hair.

"I don't have any eyebrows, eyelashes, arm hair leg hair, anything," says Maddie.

Maddie, who lives in Berks County, began losing her hair when she was just five years old. She has Alopecia, an auto-immune disease that causes hair to fall out from some or all parts of the body.

"When I would wake up it would be on my pillow," she explains. "When I'd take a bath there would be clumps, it just fell out so fast"

Doctors diagnosed Maddie just a month after she started kindergarten, a time when she so desperately wanted to be like all the other girls at school.

"Everyone has long hair, so it was ... very hard for me," Maddie remembers.

While Alopecia is not life threatening, it is life-altering. Maddie's parents, Jeff and Betsy were devastated.

"I just remember thinking all the most negative things, that she will never get married, that she'd never have friends, that she would get picked on, that we're are gonna have a little bald daughter who would be damaged for life," recalls Jeff.

Maddie's parents tried pills and lotions to get her hair to grow back. When it didn't, they bought her hats and wigs. But it was Maddie who quickly realized that the treatments and the cover-ups were worse than the disease.

"That's when I decided I don't need to wear hats… people will like me just the same," she says.

Fast forward ten years, and Maddie is proof of that. Her friends and family say she's smart, fearless and one the most popular kids at school. She also helps run the children's Alopecia Project, a charity her parents started to help other kids with Alopecia build self-esteem.

"If someone is picking on you. The more confident you are, the less someone will pick on you and you have to have confidence to take off your hat and go bald," says Maddie.

"Maddie told me a lot of people would stare at her and her dad told her that whenever someone stares at you just respond with a smile," says Sean O'Brien.

Sean O'Brien went to high school with Maddie's dad. He was so struck by Maddie's resiliency that he decided to write a children's book about Alopecia, using Maddie's family's story.

Maddie, Teaching Tolerance With A Smile, is the first children's book about hair loss. The author is using the popular crowdfunding site crowdit.com to ask people who believe in the book's message to give money so it can be published. So far he's raised more than $5,000.

"This is our story. It does get better, and not just for Alopecia. It's about anything that makes a child different," says Jeff.

"Its okay to be different. Everyone is different in their own way. I'm just different because I have no hair" says Maddie.

An important lesson, taught by an amazing young woman who has embraced her beautiful baldness, despite living in a world where physical perfection is too often the goal.

"Its not about finding a cure. Its about living in the moment and being confident with having no hair," says Maddie.

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