Rapunzel Project benefit to 'Save the Hairs' for local chemo patients

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 9:24 PM

What if chemo patients didn't have to lose to lose their hair?

A national nonprofit organization known as The Rapunzel Project is raising awareness and funds for a scalp cooling treatment proven to be 90 percent effective in making that happen. And a group of Johnson City hairstylists are working to provide the needed supplies to area cancer treatment centers.

According to The Rapunzel Project website rapunzelproject.org, “cold cap therapy” is a process that requires the use of a special caps that are cooled to very cold temperatures and worn for a period of hours before, during and after each chemotherapy treatment. The cold temperatures constrict the blood vessels leading to the hair follicles, reduce the amount of chemo drugs that reach the follicles and temporarily limit the follicles’ metabolic activity.

While process has been used in Europe for more than 20 years, it has emerged more slowly in the U.S., where two cold cap systems have won Federal Drug Administration approval in the past few years. Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association cited sufficient clinical trial evidence of effectiveness to warrant more widespread use of the therapy.

Hairstylist Wendy Avery at SalonCentric on State of Franklin Road learned of cold cap therapy through the sale of Kenra Professional hair products. The Kenra company is an ardent corporate supporter of nonprofit Rapunzel Project and their work for the project caused Avery to realize the impact it could have for local chemo patients.

Avery’s mother, Mary Peters, a longtime hairstylist at Hair Plus at the Mall at Johnson City and a former president of the local Look Good Feel Better program for chemo patients, thought cold cap therapy sounded wonderful. And Avery’s good friend Hannah O’Laughlin, a stylist at the Salon Bliss in the Mountcastle Drive shopping center, was as equally enthused about its local potential.

Avery and O’Laughlin joined forces and hosted their first fundraiser, a craft bazaar under the big read Salon Bliss awning, that on a single rainy Saturday in May earned enough to bring the first $2,500 cold cap freezer to the Tri-Cities area.

Avery said all the money raised locally will go toward supplies, caps and freezers to help local chemo patients. The key, she said, is finding a local cancer center or an independent specialist willing to provide the service. So O’Laughlin is working on it, reaching out to local treatment centers and oncologists and putting them in touch with The Rapunzel Project to learn more about the support that is available.

They have only been at it a few months and so far have made the connection for one Tri-Cities treatment center interested in learning more. They’re encouraged and they’re moving on with plans for their next big fundraiser set for 11 a.m -3 p.m. Saturday, July 7, at Johnson City’s VFW Post 2108, located at the foot of Buffalo Mountain on Jim Funkhouser Road.

This one will be a Save the Hairs motorcycle poker run with cash prizes and another craft bazaar with a lot of fun extras — two food trucks, a pallet artist, Unique Boutique clothing, Kelly’s Custom Vinyl printing, Jan’s Sweet Treats and homemade breads, Mr. B’s Custom Flowers and things, a Blood Assurance blood drive, and $1 mini-massages by Jones Chiropractic with every dollar going to The Rapunzel Project. Yard sale spots will also be available for a donation to the project.

Registration for the poker run will start at at 11 a.m. and the ride will begin at noon. Riders will make a total of five stops at popular Johnson City locations, drawing a card at each stop for a chance at a $150 prize for the best hand, $100 for the second best hand and $50 for the worst hand. The entry fee is $20 with all proceeds going to The Rapunzel Project.

Avery invited anyone interested in learning more about The Rapunzel Project or in need of more information about the July 7 benefit to call her at 423-914-6729.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538, slegg@johnsoncitypress.com or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

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