McAlester 4-H’er Lexie Lerblance began her career in the organization in third grade, following in the footsteps of her mother. Lerblance initially found success showing livestock, but her biggest achievement was her community service project that she remains involved with today: The TLC Memorial Wig Closet.
A Powerful Impact
Lerblance established the TLC Memorial Wig Closet in 2010 after her mother, Ashley, struggled to find a wig following cancer treatments that resulted in hair loss. The 4-H’er named the project in honor of her grandmother, Teresa Lane Compton, who died from cancer.
“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after she lost her hair, we traveled from McAlester to a nearby community to look at a wig closet because we didn’t have a resource in our area. We didn’t have a great experience – it wasn’t very personal. So, on the way back home, we discussed the possibility of bringing a wig closet to McAlester,” Lerblance says.
The idea came at the right time, because Lerblance, a Pittsburg County 4-H ambassador, was encouraged by her county extension educator, Greg Owen, to complete a community service project. He suggested choosing something she felt passionate about.
The TLC Memorial Wig Closet, a nonprofit organization located at McAlester Regional Health Center, provides wigs and other head coverings, such as turbans, hats and scarves, to cancer patients who have lost their hair. Volunteers, including Ashley, help patients individually by appointment in order to offer personalized service.
All items are free of charge, thanks to a variety of generous donors and annual fundraisers organized by Lerblance, who also handles marketing and promotions for The TLC Memorial Wig Closet.
She regularly speaks to local civic groups about the organization, and was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pink Ribbon Luncheon fundraiser at the First United Methodist Church in McAlester. “Hair is so important to how you feel about yourself, and I don’t think people always realize the impact that losing their hair can have on their self-esteem,” she says. “I love when people try on a wig and say they feel like themselves again.”
Due in large part to her work with The TLC Memorial Wig Closet, Lerblance won the 4-H Youth in Action Citizenship Pillar Award in 2016.
The National 4-H Council’s 4-H Youth in Action Awards, presented at the National 4-H Council’s Legacy Awards ceremony each year in Washington, D.C., recognizes four “outstanding 4-H’ers who epitomize 4-H youth empowerment and leadership,” and who have made a positive impact in their respective communities.
“I couldn’t have won without the help of my family and my county’s 4-H program,” Lerblance says. “I didn’t expect to win.”
Lerblance, who is now 18 years old and pursuing a marketing degree at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, received a $5,000 college scholarship and shopping spree to purchase attire for the 4-H Legacy Awards event, plus $5,000 for the Pittsburg County 4-H program. Together, Lerblance and her mother decided to use the award money to create a grant program to help kids who need funding for their 4-H community service projects.
“Everything Lexie does is about helping others, giving back and having a positive impact,” says Owen, who has known Lerblance since she was 9 years old. “I’m so impressed with her, and I believe she will be successful at anything she takes on because she has such a strong work ethic.
“I’ve always told my 4-H’ers to leave things better than they found them, including their
4-H club and community,” he adds. “Lexie has definitely done that.”