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Alopecia dragon boat team so popular, it adds second boat

People from as far away as Kenora join Team Alo, which raises awareness of autoimmune disease
Kiera Konowalchuk and Maya Flores both have alopecia universalis, which has made them lose all their hair. But both are happy and healthy children. They were both part of Team Alo at the 2015 Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival, and will participate in the festival again this year on July 16. File photo.

While the 2016 Sudbury Dragon Boat Festival  will raise funds for the Sam Bruno PET Scanner Fund, two boats of paddlers also plan to increase awareness around an autoimmune disease called alopecia. 

Alopecia is characterized by hair loss, and can range from blotches without hair (alopecia aerata), complete hair loss on the scalp only (alopecia totalis) and total hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Maya Flores, 9, was diagnosed with alopecia universalis five years ago.

People often assumed Maya had been going through chemotherapy when they saw she had no hair. 

But she was a healthy child. 

To help dispel the myths around alopecia, and increase awareness around the condition, her parents launched the dragon boat Team Alo the year she was diagnosed.

Five years later, the team has gained so much popularity they have gotten a second boat – and people have come from as far as Kenora to participate.

“We continue to have more and more people ask to paddle for Team Alo,” said Maya's mother, Mandy Flores. 

Like all teams at the Dragon Boat Festival, Team Alo will raise funds for the Sam Bruno PET Scanner Fund, but they will also have hairstylist Christina Bruno near their tent, who will accept ponytails for the Wigs for Kids Foundation. 

The organization makes wigs for children who have lost their hair due to alopecia, cancer treatments, or any other reason. 

Christina Bruno also happens to be Sam Bruno's daughter. The organization in Bruno's name will be the day's main beneficiary. 

The 2016 Dragon Boat Festival takes place Saturday, July 16, at Bell Park.

To donate your hair to Wigs for Kids look for the Team Alo tent. People can get their hair cut that day, or bring their ponytails to the tent. 


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Jonathan Migneault

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