Locals support cancer patients, one lock at a time

Melrose Free Press

Oct. 25, 2011

By Jessica Sacco

Monday marked a day full of pink for the Halo Studio in downtown Melrose. Pink balloons, ribbons and streamers decorated various surfaces inside the salon. Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting sat on the waiting room table. Hairdressers, dressed in pink aprons, busied themselves with clients.

The customers were at Halo Studio to donate their hair to Pink Heart Funds, a non-profit that provides prosthetic hairpieces to people who have lost their hair to illness or chemotherapy treatment.

Jodi Dwyer, a medical social worker for Hallmark Health, began to plan the hair donation event over the summer when she decided she wanted to donate her own hair to a good cause. She brought the idea for “Cutting for a Cure” to Halo Studio owner Jennifer Malenchini, who immediately showed interest.

“I think it’s such a great thing to do as a hairdresser,” said Malenchini. “We always say ‘when we look good we feel good,’ and if we can help someone feel better, that’s something I feel very strongly about.”

The two soon began collaborating and planned the event to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“We always had October in mind,” said Dwyer.

Pink Heart Funds has supplied hundreds of wigs free of charge to those in need, including children and adults, since its launch in 2005. But, as the organization’s name suggests, many of the recipients are breast cancer patients. Pink Heart Funds provides other services as well, such as supplying women with free breast prosthetics after cancer surgery.

Twenty women from Melrose and surrounding communities made their way to the salon on Monday, ready to make the cut. Participants donated at least eight inches of their hair, the minimum amount needed to contribute to the fund. Halo Studio provided a free cut, style and blow-dry afterward to complete each woman’s new look.

Melrose resident Tina Thomas Smith fell in love with her short ’do. As a breast cancer survivor, she knew immediately she wanted to be a part of the event. She said that after everything she went through with her diagnosis, she found donating her hair to be a very peaceful experience.

“This is a kind of way to give back and show gratitude for my good fortune,” she said.

A veteran to the cause, Joana Amaral-Cuevas of Malden, completed her fifth hair donation shortly after 10 a.m., cutting off nearly a foot of her brown wavy locks.

Although Amaral-Cuevas does not personally know anyone affected by breast cancer, she said she donates her hair every year because she thinks it’s a good cause.

“[Breast cancer] is a disease that just keeps growing,” she said. “The more you can donate, the better.”

Dwyer, while organizing and promoting the event, also spent her time recruiting members of the surrounding hospitals to get involved.

Kathleen Uzdanovich from the Intensive Care Unit at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital donated about 10 inches to the cause.

Uzdanovich said “Cutting for a Cure” is a great idea and was happy to see the collaboration between the hospital, Halo Studio and local residents.

“It’s nice that the hospital has such a strong connection with the community,” she said. “Then to partner with a local business, it speaks volumes of the community, that everyone is connected.”

Dwyer herself contributed to Pink Heart Funds, saying, “I think it’s an easy thing to do. Hair grows back.”

Overall, Malenchini said the day went well and the participants were excited to be involved.

“Some might have been a little scared,” she said, “but everyone left loving their hair.”

Both Dwyer and Malenchini hope to continue with the cause and are already planning to organize “Cutting for a Cure” again next year.

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