NHS to hold their second Wig Out to raise awareness for rare cancers


Provided by Kathleen Aylward

Wig-wearing students stand outside the entrance of WA during the first Wig Out in 2021.

Srivas Arun, Staff Writer

Kathleen Aylward, a WA math teacher and an advisor of the WA National Honor Society (NHS), was watching Channel 5 News in August 2021 when she was inspired to bring a new fundraising event to WA. 

Aylward was compelled by the story of mother and businesswoman Jacqui Lewis who had been diagnosed with a rare cancer at the start of the pandemic. Lewis created The Rare Initiative to raise money and awareness for the research of rare cancers after learning that they only received 3% of funding from nonprofit organizations. The Rare Initiative began an event known as Wig Out to raise awareness and money for their cause.

When Aylward heard about the Wig Out, she thought it would be a perfect event for the NHS to hold at WA as the community was still recovering from the pandemic.

The NHS will hold their second Wig Out on Thursday, Dec. 22 when students can wear a wig to school to raise awareness. Students can also try to get a sponsor of $22 or personally donate to raise money for The Rare Initiative. According to Aylward, NHS decided to plan the event for the 22nd of December and asked students and staff to donate $22 to remind people of the 22% of cancers that are considered rare.

“[When] Covid started, service opportunities were limited to kids in the NHS, so we tried to get some events that were still here at Westford Academy,” Aylward said. “We also wanted to create activities that were open to the entire student body, not just necessarily NHS students.”

Another main reason for Aylward to bring Wig Out to WA was the simplicity of the event. Just wearing a wig raises awareness for rare cancers and brings more attention to their research. According to Aylward, purchasing a fake hairdo for the event becomes easier and more economical after October when all the costume wigs are on sale because of the end of Halloween.

“I thought that [the Wig Out] was something we could do,” Aylward said. “It would be so easy to do a Wig Out and just announce the day.” 

When the event was first held in 2021, the NHS managed to raise over $1,000 and Aylward said that almost 100 students wore wigs to school. 

“We never imagined that we were going to raise over $1,000 last year for our first time of just trying something out, so we’re hoping it goes just as well this year,” Aylward said.

Aylward credited the 2021 vice president of the NHS, Cole Kirby, for leading the organization of the event. This year’s NHS president, senior Krishna Vasiraju, said that she would like to publicize Wig Out more now that she is president.

“I feel like people just see a bunch of wigs and they don’t really know [about the event] so I really want to make sure that people know the meaning behind it,” Vasiraju said. “I just hope that everyone in the NHS does it, but also a bunch of other people too.”

Both Aylward and Vasiraju want to encourage more and more students and staff to participate in Wig Out even if they are not involved in the NHS.

“You don’t necessarily need a personal invitation from somebody in the NHS. If this cause hits home for anybody, please get a wig,” Aylward said. “If you get a sponsor or something that’s fantastic, but we would like anyone who would like to join us to participate on that day.”

Seeing students walk through the halls with bright, and oftentimes goofy, fake hair on their heads makes for an incredibly interesting scene when the 22nd does roll around as well. One of the most fun parts of the event in Vasiraju’s opinion is that students are able to express themselves in a unique way while supporting a serious and important cause.

Just as with many other events that the NHS organizes, Wig Out at its core is about giving back to the community and providing awareness to members of the community who struggle with rare cancers.

“I hope [the Wig Out] will show people that giving back to causes and just doing basic things to give back really doesn’t require that much effort,” Vasiraju said.