On Sept. 6, local members of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) kicked off this year’s celebration of National Alopecia Areata Awareness month with a tour of Baltimore City Hall and a visit with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The group of 12 local residents made the trip to City Hall in an effort to raise interest and awareness about the disease.

Alopecia areata is the most common autoimmune disease, affecting over 6.5 million Americans, and 145 million people worldwide. It manifests with total or partial loss of scalp and body hair. There currently is no cure, and no treatment that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Alopecia areata occurs in both sexes and all races and ages, but young people are affected most often. It usually starts with one or more small, round patches on the scalp. In some people, the disease can affect hair on the scalp until all of it is lost (alopecia totalis), or over the entire body, including the eyebrows and eyelashes (alopecia universalis).

Immediately following the visit to City Hall, the group proceeded to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and met up with more than 40 NAAF members to continue with the Baltimore Alopecia Awareness Day activities. The group handed out brochures and bracelets inscribed with the phrase “Free to be me” as well as answered questions to fans curious about the disease. Public service announcements were posted on the Orioles scoreboard periodically throughout the game. One of the younger NAAF members, Miranda Soong, a sixth grader from Huntington Beach, California, delivered a strong and heart-warming rendition of the National Anthem just before the Orioles began their winning rally against the Chicago White Sox.

“This was our third year of conducting an awareness day with the Orioles and it was by far one of our most successful”, said Maria Beckett a member of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation board of directors. “The theme for this year’s awareness month is ‘Look at Us’. It’s a rallying call bringing attention and understanding to people who may not have even heard of alopecia areata. We are especially grateful to the Orioles franchise and to the Mayor’s office for helping us to spread the word and raise the public’s level of understanding”.