Cancer Society opens wig banks in Galion, Bucyrus
By Sarah Einselen
For the 32 women in Crawford County who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010—and for women diagnosed with any cancer since—the local American Cancer Society wig bank is now providing new, free wigs.
“We’ve always had wig banks, but mainly they were donations we could get from local businesses,” said Deb Niese, a health initiatives representative for the Society. Now, “we get brand-new wigs that have never been worn, and they’re stylish.”
The revamped wig banks were launched in Crawford County in 2011. One bank is located in Galion and one in Bucyrus, but both will distribute wigs to anyone the Society refers to them.
Val Stafford, a Galion cosmetologist, manages the Galion wig bank. That one started last April. She puts wigs of varying lengths on display with more left in the packages they come in. Wig lines like Ken Paves, Raquel Welch and Eva Gabor are packed into each case. They are donated by Pantene. Stafford gets about fifty wigs in a case, she said, and when she runs out she’ll ask for more.
The wigs are up-to-date, Stafford said, though there are also silver-haired ones for those who want them. Women who come in to get a wig typically look through a book Stafford has on hand, full of ideas for wig hairstyles, then pick out wigs and try them on in front of the mirror at the wig bank. “Most of them kind of go with what they’re used to,” she said. “They’re like, ‘ah, this fits.’ They like it, they’re comfortable with it.”
Cindy Leonhart, an employee in the Bucyrus Community Hospital oncology department, manages that city’s wig bank. She likewise lets women try on the wigs.
“They think it’s wonderful, especially when they find out it’s free,” Leonhart said. “They’re very excited about it.
“It is just a wonderful program. You feel crappy anyways sometimes and a wig just helps you look better.”
Both wig bank coordinators said they tried to make wig selection a special time for their clients.
“I try to make it fun for them,” Stafford said. And the women often bring a friend along for moral support and a friendly but honest take on the new look.
Currently the wig banks provide one wig per woman and don’t have toupees for men. Toupee requests are rare, Niese said, but can usually be accommodated through the Society. Women who receive a wig fill out a confidential form to document that the wig was given away.
“I do have resources where they can buy others if they like,” Stafford said. She also has a few hats on hand, donations from friends and local churches, that women may take if they prefer.
Before volunteering to manage the wig bank, she had already begun teaching women makeup and nail techniques in the Society’s Look Good, Feel Better series of workshops. The program is taught by licensed cosmetologists and helps women learn how they can still look good while cancer treatments are taking their toll on women’s bodies.
“We play with makeup, we play with hats and wigs and they receive a complimentary makeup kit,” Stafford described. Skin and nail care is also taught. “They get to share with other people going through the same thing they’re going through.” The women enjoy the camaraderie almost more than they enjoy “playing” with the makeup, Stafford said.
She began volunteering as a Look Good, Feel Better coordinator in December of 2009.
“I had a friend that was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of that year,” Stafford said, “and in the process of looking for wigs for her I found out about Look Good, Feel Better.”
The Society assists cancer patients in other ways, as well. The newest program provides gas cards to those who otherwise can’t afford transportation to their doctor’s appointments or cancer treatment centers.
To obtain a wig or more information about the American Cancer Society wig banks or one of the other patient assistance programs, call the Society at (800) 227‑2345. A live person will answer any time, day or night.
Look Good, Feel Better sessions
Volunteers with the American Cancer Society will instruct several beauty workshops in Crawford County for cancer patients. The schedule for upcoming Look Good, Feel Better programs is as follows:
- Feb. 13, 10 a.m.-noon, Wesley Chapel (260 Sixth Ave, Galion)
- March 1, 6–8 p.m., First Federal conference room at Bucyrus Community Hospital (629 N Sandusky Ave, Bucyrus)
- March 28, 6–8 p.m., oncology department of Galion Community Hospital (269 Portland Way S, Galion)
Other sessions are scheduled further in the future. Registration is required to attend any Look Good, Feel Better session. Call 1 (888) 227‑6446, choose option 2, then option 1 to register.