No matter the type or stage of cancer, the widespread disease takes a toll both physically and emotionally—and the treatments that come with it put great stress on the body. That’s why several Plymouth salons are doing their part to help cancer patients through what can be a difficult, but inspiring, journey.
“It’s always been [a fight] we’ve supported,” says Linda Voigt of New Reflections Salon. “Many of our team members have experienced cancer, as have their friends or family.” Since early 2014, the salon has been teaming up with Kim Becker, founder of the non-profit Hello Gorgeous, to give VIP treatment to cancer patients.
The experience is always a surprise for the recipient. After being nominated by a friend, the pampering begins at New Reflections. A red carpet is rolled out into the salon, and the client is greeted with “Hello, gorgeous” by everyone inside. There are flowers from Donato’s Floral; candy, an outfit and a stylist from Maurices; and spa services including a manicure, pedicure or facial, hair consultation and makeup application. Then the “reveal party” begins: A gathering of friends and family with a meal at Digby’s.
“Clients are so surprised and taken aback, there are always tears,” Voigt says. “They find out why they are really there and that their friend nominated them.”
According to Voigt, the focus is kept on women who are presently going through treatment, and the services are customized based on the client’s condition. “We’ve found that our guests are very open to talking about cancer treatments,” says New Reflections’ Hello Gorgeous coordinator Jill Bevacco, who works with the nominator to plan out the entire day.
New Reflections’ largest reveal party to date was for a longtime client, 77-year-old Marilyn Stalheim of Plymouth. “Marilyn had been coming to the salon for 15 years; we learned she had colon cancer and wanted to make sure she received this day,” Voigt says. Stalheim’s party included nearly 40 guests, and another surprise—Twin Cities Live filmed the entire salon experience.
“As you go through this process of chemotherapy and all of that, you kind of feel drained, but I’m very blessed,” Stalheim told TCL staffers.
The salon has also hosted fundraisers to offset some of the costs for Hello Gorgeous. This past fall, they held a purse party that raised more than $3,000. They continue to collect new and gently used handbags at every location, which will be used for the next fundraising party.
Over at Merrill Hair Designs, cancer philanthropy is taking a younger twist, partnering with Wigs for Kids to provide hair for children going through chemotherapy. “We average 50 donations a year,” says manager Mary Merrill.
The salon offers customers 50 percent off their hair cut and style when they donate their locks to Wigs for Kids; the client must have a minimum of 12 inches to chop off, and Merrill has many clients who return to donate time and time again. “It’s a big deal,” Merrill says. “We’ve had women and men [donate], and, of course, kids.” (Merrill’s youngest client was 7 years old.) “It’s amazing how the kids get really excited. Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve done something for someone else,” she says.
Merrill massage therapist Rona Espenson is able to share her services with cancer patients, knowing where she can and can’t use pressure and what strokes to use and spots on the body to avoid. “We just work with the customer,” Merrill says. “We like to take care of people; that’s our business.”
“Cancer is something that has touched everyone in some way,” says CEO Kyle Simonson, who has been participating in Locks of Love since 1997. “At any given time I can go into any of our [three] salons and see a huge box for Locks of Love.”
Simonson’s philanthropic cancer efforts are far and wide, and include the Energizer Bunny ReTreat spa services at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Unite’s Fashion for a Cure and more. “We try to say yes to about every single request we get,” Simonson says.
For years, Simonson’s was an integral supporter of the Look Good, Feel Better program. Similar to Hello Gorgeous, Look Good, Feel Better’s mission is to improve the quality of life for cancer patients through appearance and beauty sessions, teaching cosmetologists to care for special needs, including wig styling, skin sensitivity and more. “When you’re in the salon and spa business, you really have a love for people,” says Simonson. “And that inspires you every day.”