A Small Charity with a Really Big Heart
It all started with one salon. On a Sunday every October, it opens its doors and their team steps up on their day off to provide free haircuts to the public in exchange for donations. There’s a raffle for items that have been donated by both vendors and the local community, adding yet more funding to the pot through ticket sales. The dedicated group works hard all year to promote the event and then after the cut-a-thon donates the entire lot (at that time) to the American Cancer Society, to help in the fight to find a cure. An ever-so-worthy cause with far too many victims.
Despite their best efforts to raise both awareness and much-needed funding, this terrible disease managed to strike one of their own. It was early 2004 when the team at Artistic Hair in Orange, California received the news. Jill Etzold Kester, a beloved stylist and supporting member of their annual fundraisers, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Despite their devastation, the team rallied behind Jill and helped support her in any way they could. They even kept her station available for her in hopes of her eventual return.
Jill fought the good fight, remaining in good spirits and cheering others on the whole way through, but unfortunately, the cancer had other plans. In October of that same year Jill lost her battle. It was just one week after the salon’s annual cut-a-thon; their most successful to date.
“Shortly before she died,” said salon owner Barbara Nolasco, “Jill and I were together alone in her hospital room. She was adamant about me starting a foundation for hairstylists in her condition. She had been a constant supporter of our cut-a-thons, and felt the proceeds could instead be used to benefit hairstylists diagnosed with breast cancer.”
She continued, “In 2008, we got the ball rolling on creating The Jill Foundation and on February 19, 2010, we received our designation as a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 organization. Our annual cut-a-thon event, along with other fundraisers coordinated and sponsored by those who loved Jill, is now benefiting local hairstylists battling breast cancer through The Jill Foundation."
Now with a network of 10 local salons, the fundraising efforts continue. The proceeds are pooled and gifted to local salon professionals who find themselves in need when in the crosshairs of this terrible disease. For the nine women who have received gifts so far, The Jill Foundation has been a lifesaver, to others it’s a beacon of hope, and to those who knew Jill best, it’s a reminder of her caring nature and dedication to the cause.
The Jill Foundation plans to continue their efforts for as long as there is a need and is encouraging others to join in the fight.
“We look towards the future as we grow and receive more support from other salons," adds Nolasco, now the president of The Jill Foundation. “Right now The Jill Foundation is limited, as we can only help hairstylists in our local area who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but we look to the future when we can help any hairstylist with any illness that keeps them from earning a living.”
She continues, “There is nothing in our industry right now where a hairstylist diagnosed with breast cancer can apply for a gift of up to $5,000 to help with their financial burdens that (the disease) can cause. We want to make a difference in their lives and we can't do it without the help of (the many) salons and hairstylists.”
For more information about The Jill Foundation or to make a donation, please visit The Jill Foundation website.
Captions: Top Grouping: Behind the scenes at the annual The Jill Foundation Cut-a-Thon. Middle: The Jill Foundation President Barbara Nolasco (left) and Secretary/Treasurer Derek Benson (right) with The Jill Foundation gift recipient Jennifer Ruelas (center). Bottom: Jill with her daughters (left) - The girls today, carrying on Jill's legacy by participating in fundraising events (right).