Hairstylists are known for their caring, compassionate nature. After all, their job is to make people look and feel their best. It’s no surprise that they are the ones who champion the Wigs For Kids nonprofit, which provides handtied hairpieces at no cost to children who are experiencing hair loss—whether undergoing cancer treatments or suffering from other medical issues.
Leading the charge is Jeffrey Paul, a renowned hairstylist who founded this nonprofit in 1981 after his 15-year-old niece was diagnosed with leukemia and lost her hair while going through chemotherapy.
“When my niece came to me and said, ‘Uncle Jeff, don’t let me lose my hair,’ those six words change my life,” says Jeffrey. And so, it became the impetus for the nonprofit.
Now 40 years later, thousands of stylists are following suit and lending a hand to help kids throughout the U.S. and Canada. But there is always a need for more.
“We currently have 1,300 certified stylists, but it is our goal to have 5,000 to cover the entire country, so our wigs are accessible to all,” says Jeffrey, noting that some recipients have to drive 200 miles to get fitted for their wigs.
Hairstylists who participate in Wigs For Kids can work with both hair donors and wig recipients. They are trained how to cut the hair being donated, as well as how to consult with the kids to help them pick out the wig style and hair color, and then expertly fit them.
To help spread the word about Wigs For Kids, Jeffrey and his staff attended America’s Beauty Show in Chicago this spring, as guests of the Beauty Cast Network, where he did a special presentation.
Joining him on stage were two local wig recipients, their stylists and their parents. The children talked about how it feels to lose their hair and how the wigs have given them newfound confidence and improved self-esteem.
The beauty school students and instructors in attendance saw firsthand how they can really make a difference in a child’s life. More than coloring someone’s hair green or blue or cutting it long or short, hairstylists want to make a difference in someone’s life. By getting involved in a specialty career opportunity that falls within their licensing, they can make a big impact.– Jeffrey Paul
Not only is Wigs For Kids giving stylists an opportunity to give back to the community, it also is helping the salon industry as a whole.
Statistics show that after one year 50 percent of beauty school graduates don’t renew their cosmetology license and, according to Jeffrey, a quarter of those go into other fields such as nursing and social work because they want a career where they can help others more. By partnering with Wigs for Kids, Jeffrey believes more hairstylists will stay in the industry as it can offer the perfect balance: you can be a creative hairstylist and also make a difference helping children suffering from different medical conditions.
It is easy to join this effort, as Wigs For Kids provides free online training to certify hairstylists.
“You can get certified in both working with the donors and/or recipients,” says Jennifer Del Giudice, assistant to the executive director. “We have two classes, one takes about a half hour to complete and the other a little over an hour.”
In the Hair Donation Specialist program, stylists learn how to harvest the hair. They are instructed on how to section the hair, put them into ponytails and send in the hair to the wig manufacturer.
To become a Certified Service Provider, stylists learn techniques and skills required to help children get fitted with a hairpiece. They take measurements and help the child pick out the hairstyle and hair color, and then send in that information to Wigs For Kids so they can work with the manufacture of the hairpiece. Once the wig is made, it is sent back to the stylist, who cuts and styles it and shows the child how to care for it.
“These courses are perfect for someone who has just graduated from cosmetology school to further their learning,” comments Jennifer. “It not only teaches them a new skill but how their career can make a big impact in a child’s life.”
“Without stylists we could not do what we do,” says Jeanne Hurt, who attended the America’s Beauty Show with Jeffrey and Jennifer, and is instrumental in overseeing donor management for Wigs For Kids. “Thanks to hairstylists who donate their time and people who donate money, we can provide wigs for kids at no cost to them. Each wig, made from human hair, costs a minimum of $1,800 to make, and we rely on the generosity and giving spirit of individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada to help with our mission.”
To mark a milestone, Wigs For Kids has launched its 10,000 Hearts fundraising campaign to signify the ten thousand lives (recipients and families) it has touched over its 40 years.
No amount of donation is ever too small. It is okay if you can only donate $1 because every dollar adds up and makes a tremendous impact helping children experiencing hair loss feel confidence and joy in their lives.– Jeanne Hurt