Christmas came early for a handful of deserving breast cancer survivors as Elle Marie Hair Studio recently distributed funds from their Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair fundraiser. The efforts were organized under the umbrella of the Elle's Angels Foundation, which was created by the salon to raise money for local charities.
Money was raised during the months of October and November as, for the seventh year in a row, the public was invited to have a pink hair extension applied for a $10 donation.
"After reaching out to my friends and family for ideas of different local organizations to donate our efforts to, I realized everyone had a story," says Operations Director Lorry Green. "Their mom, grandma, sister, themselves...everyone knows someone who has been affected by the disease. Those people deserve a break and with the help of their community, we might have the ability to provide that for them.
That is why the Elle's Angels Foundation formed the Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair campaign. We may not be able to cure cancer, but together with our community we can help make a difference."
Over $4,000 was raised directly from pink hair applications with an additional $2,000 coming in through additional donations.
"The outpouring of support from the community was what amazed me most," says Green. "Since 2007, we had raised over $17,000 toward breast cancer awareness. However, with the start of our Elle's Angels Foundation this year, as well as our new Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair drive, we beat out our best year ever for pink hair. I believe we did it because we had an actual cause that people could relate to. I believe it hit home to a lot of people and those who donated did it because it directly affected them either with a family member or friend or they like the idea of giving back to their own community."
Guests who knew of a deserving friend or family-member who had been touched by breast cancer in some way or another were encouraged to complete a Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair nomination form. Elle Marie's management team then took on the difficult task of selecting those most deserving of the financial help.
The first recipient was 35-year-old Jessica Suttie of Marysville. A single, divorced mother of two, ages 7 and 9, Jessica went through radiation, lost all her hair through chemotherapy and had a single mastectomy. She's currently cancer free with a long road ahead of surgeries and decisions to help ensure she stays cancer free. In addition, Jessica is struggling to make ends meet as she was forced to quit her job in order to stay qualified for state medical insurance.
The second recipient, Melanie Cunningham of Bothell, is a married mother of a 4-year-old little boy. She had a double mastectomy, three surgeries, and was forced to quit her job due to "emotional changes that didn't fit into the office atmosphere". With insurance costs so high, her husband offered to sell his truck and is currently riding his mountain bike to and from work. Melanie received about 15-20 nominations from friends and family. She is a very light-hearted, positive lady who wears a shirt that plainly says "Yes, they are fake. My real ones tried to kill me". She is a fighter.
To encourage the ladies to visit the salon without giving away the surprise, they were called and told about the Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair campaign that was just wrapping up. It was explained that they had been nominated but not selected, however the Elle's Angels Foundation had a little something for them in return for an interview for a story they were doing about the challenges of living with breast cancer as a mom of young children. "They had no idea their friends were going to be there to present them with a check," says Green. "Allowing those that nominated their loved one to hand over the check was pretty amazing - life changing, really. Lots of tears were shed. Plans for the money immediately played out in their heads. I heard things like, "You don't know how good it is going to feel to pay off that daycare bill," and, "I can pay my mortgage this month," and "kids, it's going to be a good Christmas," and "I can't wait to call my husband!" The tears were heavy and the smiles were big - such a sight to see."
In addition, three other nominees were selected to receive a free year of haircuts at Elle Marie Hair Studio.
"With so many changes this year, we feel as though we started from scratch with our pink hair fundraising efforts," says Co-Owner and Marketing Director Jody Bossert. "Fortunately, with the success we saw, we don't anticipate major changes in the future other than dates. 2013 sort of came out of nowhere as the idea for our new foundation and fundraiser didn't emerge until September. So for 2014 we plan to kick off the Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair fundraiser earlier running the entire months of September and October. Based on all of the positive feedback we received, we look forward to raising even more money and helping more people here in Snohomish County next year."
"We did a few onsite pink hair application events as well and look forward to many more for 2014," says Green. "Shawnna Alexander from Mortgage Advisory Group organized to have us come to two of her offices. That company alone helped us raise over $450! My hope is to continue to raise awareness for this horrible disease through the pink hair we see throughout our community. Seeing that pink hair might remind someone to get checked. Seeing that pink hair could save a life!"
For more information about the Elle's Angels Foundation or the Pink Hair 2 Save a Pair fundraising drive, visit http://www.EllesAngels.org.