A hair fairy tale
By Laura Hawkins | Managing editor
Illustration from book cover by Wend Boomhower
You've undoubtedly heard of the Tooth Fairy. Yet for the Martin household, the Hair Fairy has been just as important a visitor.
Fairies come while you're sleeping at night. They gather up hair so
it's gone from your sight. Then leave a surprise that's sure to
delight. Their mission complete, they continue their flight."
reads "H is for Hair Fairy," written by Cicero resident Kim Martin and
illustrated by Wend Boomhower of Noblesville — a colorful A-to-Z book
dedicated to children, and children at heart, who are battling cancer.
It's a battle Martin knows all too well.
son Nolan first was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 22 months. A
series of experimental and difficult treatments rendered him healthy
after two years, but at the age of 7, the cancer had returned. This
time it wasn't going away.
Comforting her son was not easy.
children's cancer-related books Martin found at the library offered
nothing more than information, Martin recalled. But information wasn't
going to lift Nolan's spirits.
It was in a magazine that Martin
first found the answer. She was flipping through the pages when she
found a letter written by a cancer survivor. Her husband, the woman
wrote, did the sweetest thing while she was undergoing cancer
treatments. The day she lost all of her hair, he hid some coins under
her pillow at night — a surprise from the Hair Fairy.
"She cried it just meant so much to her," Martin recalled. "It stuck with me; it was just the neatest thing."
Martin became the Hair Fairy for Nolan, who died in October 1993.
little while later, Martin went back to school to become an elementary
education teacher. During one of her classes, she was instructed to
write a book.
The first draft of "H is for Hair Fairy" was written.
wrote the book with Nolan in mind," Martin said. "I thought about him
the entire time. I thought about our experiences together and wrote it
specifically for a 7-year-old child.
"I knew that he would love it."
its final version today, "H is for Hair Fairy" takes readers on an
A-through-Z journey of cancer. Cuddly animals often are the main
characters, demonstrating everything from Courage to Fear, MRIs to
Remission. On each page, Mr. and Mrs. Hair Fairy add quips like, "By
the way, Cutie, your illness isn't punishment for being bad. You did
nothing wrong. We love you!"
The book is intended to be a
positive twist on a terrible situation, Martin explained. And according
to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation Web site,
www.candlelighters.org, that situation is experienced by thousands of
children each year. The site notes that each day 46 children are
diagnosed with cancer, which would work out to 16,790 children annually.
didn't know how positive an impact something as simple as the Hair
Fairy could make, however, until her only daughter, Andrea, was
diagnosed with cancer 10 years after Nolan had died.
"I felt like
a bear with my paw caught in a trap and could not get out," Martin
recalled. "I did not want to go through this again with another one of
As a teenager, the hair loss was a little more traumatic for Andrea, he mother recalled.
her 16th birthday she lost all of her hair," Martin said. "She sat
there and just pulled out here hair in big clumps and threw it in the
trash that day.
"She looked in the mirror and cried. It's so hard to watch a child do that."
That night the Hair Fairy visited Andrea, leaving a generous $100 bill. The next morning, Martin said her daughter was thrilled.
was all smiles, it just cheered her up so much," Martin said. "She
never looked back after that; I was so pleased that it made a
difference to her."
She was Martin's inspiration to finally publish her book.
But there still were obstacles. No publishing house would take on the project.
I struggled to find out what to do, I went to bed one night just really
thinking, ‘what am I going to do now?'" Martin recalled.
morning she woke from a dream "that made it clear to me that if I would
pursue this all non-profit, everything I would need would be provided."
Martin subsequently met Wend Boomhower.
and I met through church and obviously warmed to each other," Boomhower
said, "and gradually I heard about Kim's project that she was doing."
When Martin started working on the Hair Fairy as a nonprofit project, Boomhower, a graphic designer, offered to get involved.
"My heart went out to her, and I just wanted to be able to help in some way," she said.
the pair worked on the pictures, Martin sent e-mails to families and
friends to let them know she was going to self publish the book. They
immediately responded with donations to help her get started. Martin
also met a couple of lawyers who offered their services at no charge.
began printing locally in December, and this month she signed up with
an online publisher, www.trafford.com, where her book can be purchased
She knows it's a lot of money for a paperback book,
but the money will be used to purchase books for hospitals or those who
need it, or it will be donated to cancer groups that also help bring a
smile to children's faces.
Currently, Martin is in the process of legally establishing a nonprofit organization, the Hair Fairy Project.
to www.hairfairy. org, on the day a child looses his or her hair, the
Hair Fairy would leave money, a letter from the Hair Fairy, and the
book under a child's or young adult's pillow during chemotherapy
treatments. It would be administered through child life specialists at
children's hospitals, volunteers or pediatric oncology offices.
While it's not to that point yet, the Hair Fairy Project slowly is taking flight.
month, for example, the Scrapbook Corner in Noblesville held a
fundraiser for the organization. It raised $319, which Martin used to
purchase books for Riley Children's Hospital.
There have been others, too, who have purchased books to donate to hospitals and cancer patients nationwide.
also has signed an agreement with Johnson and Johnson. Since all of her
proceeds will go toward the nonprofit, she is given two bandages per
book to include on the back cover.
Of course, the book is just the beginning.
got a lot of ideas," Martin said, noting once the nonprofit is
established, she and her board of directors will start looking at
grants to create dolls for children with cancer, as well as Hair Fairy
sacks filled with four dollars worth of interesting coins and a note
from the Hair Fairy.
"I think there are a lot of organizations
out there — not a ton — already raising funds for research," Martin
said, "and this is something unique that I don't see out there that I
can do to help people with the emotional side of it."
Buy "H is for Hair Fairy" at
Learn more about the Hair Fairy Project at hairfairy.org.
Childhood cancer is the No. 1 disease killer of American children —
more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, AIDS and muscular
An estimated 46 children are diagnosed with cancer each day.