“The only time I saw Brandy break down was the day she learned she was going to need chemo and lose her hair in order to have a chance of survival,” says Nicole Hitchcock, recalling her sister’s diagnosis of cancer just four days after giving birth to a baby boy. “All of our salon team jumped in, and we took care of business! We got her a beautiful wig and made sure she felt beautiful as she lost her hair.”
Brandy Hitchcock was not only Nicole’s sister but also a stylist on the team at NH2 Salon in Novato, CA, owned by Nicole and a third sister, Nina Husen. When Nicole and Nina lost Brandy, they coped by trying to find a way to help other cancer patients the way they’d helped Brandy to look beautiful during treatment. The outcome of their brainstorming is Hairdressers with Heart, a program that offers head shaving and wig fitting and shaping and style maintenance in 12 customized salon visits for patients undergoing chemotherapy and during their first year following treatment. The wigs and “fund-a-wig hair-raiser kits” are available to financially disadvantaged cancer patients.
Now a year old, Hairdressers with Heart has gone national. Stylists who have signed up to be the program’s “Style Heroes” are scattered throughout California, Texas and New England. Hitchcock and Husen hope to expand to more states in order to accommodate the requests from cancer patients who live in areas not yet covered.
“Our Style Heroes feel inspired to make a difference in the community,” Nicole Hitchcock says. “As artists, stylists believe the most important part of their work is empowering people.” In some cases, the Style Heroes have a friend or loved one battling cancer as well.
Participating Style Heroes volunteer approximately three hours of care per program recipient and determine how many program recipients they would like to care for each year. Style Heroes must have a minimum of 3 years’ experience in hairdressing and be, according to Hitchcock, “someone who’s a heart-centered, compassionate individual.” Although the salon is not required to have a private area, the stylist must devise a way to provide privacy.
Hairdressers with Heart, a non-profit that is 100 percent volunteer-run and operated, supplies each Style Hero with an in-salon marketing kit, Style Hero training and ongoing support.
“We do not charge cancer patients or stylists to be part of our program,” Hitchcock adds. “We do fundraising so that we can continue to provide wigs to financially disadvantaged cancer patients and pay for the marketing kits and costs associated with patient awareness and stylist recruitment.”
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