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Child's plight sheds light

5-year-old has rare condition

Owen O’Brien shares a moment with Detroit Pistons player Charlie Villanueva at a Celtics game earlier this year. Villanueva also has Alopecia and his foundation, "Charlie's Angels," has meet and greets at most of his games for kids with Alopecia. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
May 12, 2010
STURBRIDGE — People come in all shapes and sizes — and colors, and creeds and every varying degree of every other aspect that sets us apart from one another.

For Brimfield mother Nancy O'Brien, the goal is to get young kids to understand that fact of life and accept people for who they are, not what they look like.

A mother of three, O'Brien is not championing the cause out of political correctness, or the need to celebrate social diversity, but simply out of love for her children and the desire to see them all lead happy, accepted lives.

About a year and a half ago, after numerous doctor visits prompted by a quick reduction in body hair, O'Brien's middle child, 5-year-old Owen, was diagnosed with Alopecia Universalis.

Alopecia is an incurable autoimmune disorder that, while not lethal to the body, does manifest itself in a peculiar way — hair loss.

At age 4, after his mother noticed a small bald spot on his head, it took only two weeks for young Owen to lose every hair on his body, including his eyebrows, eyelashes, and arm and leg hair.

Although he is surrounded by a strong support system, O'Brien fears that as her son grows up, bullying may become part of his life, so she is doing everything she can now to educate people on the condition and the fact that just because Owen has no hair does not make him any different on the inside.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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