Butterflies BBI mother, daughter team, producing custom-designed wigs for cancer victims

Founders of Butterflies BBI
Founders of Butterflies BBI, a nonprofit organization that creates hair replacement for children suffering with cancer, from left are daughter, Kaiya Blackman, mother, Jamaica-Queens-born, Erna Blackman, and staff member Melanie Rudolfo, showcasing a wig at the recently held Queens Cancer Walk at Smokey Park in Queens.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Mother and daughter team, Erna and Kaiya Blackman, co-founders of Butterflies BBI by Blaq Corporation provides free hair replacements and solutions to children, (18 and under) who are experiencing hair-loss due to cancer treatment therapies, Alopecia, and other medical conditions.

Caribbean Life caught up with the warm-hearted ladies at the recently held Queens Cancer Walk Health Fair, in Smokey Park, as they showcased some of their creations that has helped hundreds of children over the past 10 years.

Daughter, Kaiya eagerly spoke of the work the organization is doing to design custom design hair pieces, and wigs to not only match the skin-tone of the children, but to create the hair with love and comfort, to suit the need of each child, depending on the illness.

“We decided to launch the organization because a lot of children lose their hair due to medical reasons, especially, in our community, kids of color, and kids of all ethnicities. We must make sure we find the right hair texture that matches the texture of the children’s natural hair before they became ill, she said, and explained, children could at times be bullied for the way they look.

Mother, Erna, a Jamaica, Queens-born who has volunteered at the American Cancer Society as a stylist in their wig program and was inspired by the smiles she would bring to the faces of her clients as she assisted them while they dealt with their personal illnesses, further described the organization as a remedy for children who want to start anew after devastating situations, like losing their hair after a fire, burnt victims, or because during cancer treatment therapy, or a serious medical condition.

Blackman, director, who has received accolades and featured on ABC’S Here and Now with Sandra Bookman, for her innovative creations, said Butterflies BBI was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but continues to bring the much-needed treatment to scores of children, noting that if a prescription is issued by a doctor, the organization is ready to help patients acquire the treatment. However, she noted that it is not a quick process as picking up a wig in a store.

“Our wigs are custom-made, we measure the head of the child to make sure they get the prosthetic that look like their scalp, and matches their complexion, so it looks natural. It takes some time to produce these wigs.

The is no doubt, care and kindness goes into creating the wigs. A four-year patient, after suffering with cancer, was the youngest patient to ever receive treatment from Butterflies BBI.

The Queens-based non-profit that also accepts hair donation, said what makes the organization different is that “we know that life is busy, so to make things a little easier, we come to you.”

“We make home visits, hospital visits, provide transportation if needed and accept hair donations to make more wigs. We also work around the schedules of all caregivers. So, if mom, dad, grandma or grandpa must leave for work at 6 a.m., and will return at 8 p.m., we can accommodate them with a 5:30am or 8:30 pm visit to complete our application process.”

In addition to all ethnicities, the non-profit also service boys. When they receive a request for assistance, they don’t just provide clients with a “one size fits all” wig or replacement.

“Too often, we’ve seen girls with wigs that are too long, not age appropriate, low quality and don’t match their ethnicity. We are here to change that.”

“What we do at Butterflies BBI is, we match our clients with a look that is like their look before their hair loss. This means that little girls with curly or wavy hair can now receive human curly and wavy wigs or hair replacements free of charge.”

“Being stripped of your identity and placed in a category that doesn’t match your look is like placing a square peg in a round hole,” according to their website.

“It just doesn’t work and if forced, it can shave off some of that child’s identity and being, leaving them feeling alone and isolated. Imagine if at 10 years old, you lost your curly hair and were forced to wear a straight wig or hair replacement to school (or vice versa). Would you be able to concentrate on your studies while being teased by other students? You might even consider not going to school to prevent the teasing or bullying.”

“We want to eliminate that feeling by helping them feel good about the skin that they are in. For boys, (and girls in some cases) we are offering team sports hats,” states the website.
To learn more, go to www.ButterfliesBBI.org.

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