Alaina Abel Celebrated for Advocacy at Alopecia Awareness Match

Abel has brought more attention to the cause and has supported children who are facing similar challenges. 

Loyola women’s soccer captain and defender Alaina Abel made the story of her alopecia diagnosis public after shaving her head last spring, The Phoenix previously reported. Since then, Abel has brought more attention to the cause and what it means to have alopecia while supporting children who are facing similar challenges. 

On Sunday, Sept. 3, the Ramblers hosted Ball State University during their alopecia awareness match, defeating the Cardinals 2-1. Abel said having the support from her team and the athletic department meant “everything” to her, knowing she will always be supported by her community at Loyola. 

Alopecia is a disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles causing hair loss, according to the National Institute of Health. Abel started dealing with physical side effects recently but has struggled with the mental side effects since her diagnosis in middle school. 

People who have been diagnosed with alopecia are 30 to 38% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Abel’s advocacy regarding the disease has focused on helping more kids who are diagnosed see they aren’t alone.  

In the stands at Loyola Soccer Park Abel had multiple supporters cheering her and the Ramblers on. This included many members of her family and friends — who were wearing her jersey — alongside kids with alopecia who look up to her as a person and a player.

“It kinda gives me chills to be honest, knowing that I can be a role model for younger kids has just been super cool,” Abel said. 

After the match concluded, Abel’s supporters were invited onto the field to meet with her and talk about their shared struggles such as not seeing players who look like them in their respective sports. 

“At first, it was really hard realizing that I’m so different and not seeing people on the soccer field that look like me,” Abel said. “But knowing that I am able to embrace my differences and be a role model for others has been really life-changing.”

This is Abel’s first season playing with her shaved head after shaving it March 31. She said she was nervous at first but as time went on, she barely thought about playing without hair, which added a sense of relief to her life. 

The only new challenge Abel faces this season, she said, is in regards to not having hair to hold sweat. 

“I will say playing without hair is crazy in terms of you sweat so much you don’t realize it,” Abel said, laughing. “I’m constantly wiping my head because there is nothing there to soak it all up. My keeper Naya always had a towel near the goal so she’s always wiping me off if I need it.” 

Naya Lipkens, Loyola’s goalkeeper, isn’t the only team member who has been supportive to Abel. The entire team, coaches and players have continuously had her back, reaching out on tough days and showering her with love and support, according to Abel. 

In her tweet announcing she shaved her head, Abel included a Venmo link to raise money for Wigs4Kids, a non-profit organization which helps children who are suffering with hair loss due to medical causes, according to their website

Since her story was released Abel has continued to be an advocate for people who have alopecia. She has stayed with the Wigs4Kids organization, recently joining their youth board. While in Ohio playing at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University in late August, Abel met with a member of the National Alopecia Foundation to start her involvement with them. 

She is continuing to spread awareness of alopecia by sharing her story every time she takes the field. The community she has built by engaging with kids with alopecia has gained national attention, as she was featured on CBS News Aug. 24. 

“I am just so thankful for my Rambler community and just all the support they continuously show me,” Abel said. “Obviously, today it was pretty evident. It was really nice to be rallied around and supported.” 

Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix

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