HIGHLAND PARK – A police officer who was suffering from cancer lost her husband, her job and her hair in less than a year, and found hope when she stepped into Linda DiFronzo’s hair salon.
“She was wearing a short brown wig from another facility that was designed for a grandma, but she was only in her 40s,” said DiFronzo, owner/hairdresser of Hair For You. “She told me that she had two teenage daughters, and she didn’t want to live after suffering so much loss. The doctors only made matters worse by putting her on anti-depressants and telling her to start getting her affairs in order.”
DiFronzo explained that she gave the woman a wig with beautiful auburn tones to complement her coloring. “It was human hair and I cut it and styled it for her and it gave her a youthful appearance,” said DiFronzo. “She walked out crying, because she said I literally saved her life. She changed doctors and went into remission. She visited the salon every other Saturday, because she loved the positive energy and it helped her recovery from chemo.”
It’s this passion for helping people that inspired DiFronzo to create a benefit called “The Beautiful You,” featuring a collection of affordable wigs for women who’ve suffered medical hair loss. The event is on Saturday, April 1 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Hair For You, which is located in Salons by JC of Highland Park, 229 Skokie Valley Road.
“These are discontinued wigs that I’ve been saving from companies to give to women in need who can’t afford the wigs,” said DiFronzo. “The wigs are machine-made, which I usually don’t carry, but I can make them look better than probably anyone else. And to give someone back their dignity for $25, I think is a very nice offer. My average synthetic wig is around $420.”
DiFronzo has over 150 wigs, and also carries hair pieces. “About 95 percent of the wigs and hairpieces are brand new,” she said. “A couple of them have been good quality donations that I’ve washed and refurbished.” Likewise, the benefit will feature a class on how to wash and maintain the wigs. In addition, DiFronzo will be selling “really nice” hats that have been donated by vendors for five dollars each.
DiFronzo will also be offering scalp treatments. “If your blood is being circulated properly on your scalp by massage, then it will help stimulate hair growth,” she added.
DiFronzo described the two foundations that the proceeds will benefit: The Magnolia Tree Foundation and Imerman Angels. In addition, she hopes to help teenagers who have trichotillomania, and alopecia disorders.
“The Magnolia Tree Foundation is in honor of one of my fabulous clients who passed away from breast cancer at 29,” said DiFronzo. “She was a beloved teacher and water polo coach at Elk Grove High School who gave back to her community and her school.” She went through treatments and had a double mastectomy. Afterward she asked to have a full body scan and her doctor said the insurance wouldn’t cover it, but she had it anyway. Before the body scan, doctors told her she was cancer free, but the scan indicated she had stage four cancer. Sadly, she died five months later, shortly after her wedding.
“So many things could be prevented if insurance companies did what patients wanted to do,” DiFronzo added.The Magnolia Tree Foundation does DNA research for the BRCA mutation.
“Jonny Imerman was told he had stage four testicular cancer at 26, but he told the doctors that he had too much to give back and he’s still alive 14 years later,” said DiFronzo. He founded the mentor-support group Imerman Angels to pair cancer patients with cancer survivors of the same age, same gender and same type of cancer.
DiFronzo said she would like to help girls between 13 and 18 who suffer from trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder and alopecia, an immune disorder. “If girls that age don’t have hair, they’re more prone to bullying. I’m going to fund a portion of whatever is left to buy a wig or if there’s enough money, I’ll split it in two.”
DiFronzo added that she’s not aware of any organizations for these disorders in Highland Park, and she would like to help people in her own community.
DiFronzo is grateful to work with Kelli Gonzalez and Terri Ferrarese who have been helping her with “The Beautiful You” benefit. “I have a wonderful staff, so I feel pretty confident doing this with their support,” she said.
DiFronzo has been a hairdresser since 1979. “When I have a wig I actually cut it apart and resew it like hand tailoring a pair of pants to fit the head,” she said. “About 99 percent of wigs come in average size, so just imagine putting on a shirt that fits every body type. “If you were to see the look on people’s faces when you help them with something they don’t have and they look good and feel good, it is the most rewarding thing that I can do.”
The first come, first serve April 1 “The Beautiful You” benefit in Salons by JC of Highland Park will be from 12 to 4 p.m. at 229 Skokie Valley Road. The benefit will have a silent auction featuring several expensive human hair wigs, high end costume jewelry and other items, according to a press release. For more information call 847/259-4968.