A MOTHER and daughter team are launching a support group to help give children with alopecia and their families the support they need.

Gemma Hurry, 39, from Hullbridge, first noticed the signs of hair loss on her daughter Brooke, now seven, around four years ago, starting with a ten-pence-piece sized amount of hair falling out and continued until her daughter had lost the majority of her hair.

Upset by thoughts of Brooke’s future with alopecia, Gemma tried to get in contact with support groups in the area, however struggled to find anything closer than north London - leading her to launch her own group to reach out to other families daunted by the condition.

She said: “Looking back I was devastated by the thought of my little girl losing her hair, and the help of a support group where I could have met with other parents would have been a huge help.

“I also desperately wanted Brooke to have the chance to meet other children who look just like her - she’s not too self-concious at the moment but as she grows up I think its important to be around other people with the condition to remind her that she’s not alone.

“I’ve had parents approaching me from as far as Suffolk and Norfolk about the group which just goes to show how little support there is out there for families.”

Alopecia is a hair loss condition which can take a number of different forms and can affect people of all ages either temporarily or in a more permanent form.

Many affected by the condition choose to wear a wig or - like Brooke and her favourite pink flamingo cap - opt for a hat to protect themselves from the sun.

Gemma praised the efforts of Brooke’s school, Riverside Primary School in Hullbridge, in encouraging fellow pupils to develop a better understanding of the condition with a special assembly at the end of the year.

Brooke, who in September will start in the junior school, said: “It was a bit scary to speak in front of everyone in the school, but I got a big clap at the end and I think it made people understand better.”

During the assembly, teachers showed pupils a presentation provided by charity Alopecia UK, and Brooke read aloud from Ben’s First Day, a rhyming storybook about a child with alopecia.

Mum Gemma said: “She’s a star - she read so confidently in front of the school and I think it helped ease her worries about moving up in the school and people potentially making unintentionally unkind comments.

“She has a group of lovely friends who don’t treat her any differently. Her best friend even told her that if she grew back all her hair and she didn’t recognise her then they would still be friends, which meant a lot as it was her way of saying that she didn’t care what Brooke looked like as long as they were friends.

“We are really hoping to be able to reach out to other children and their families to create a supportive community here in Essex.”

If you would like to find out more about Gemma’s new support group, the first of which will be held at Hullbridge Community Centre next month featuring bouncy castles and cupcakes for the children, visit www.alopecia.org.uk/essex-children.