You may know Robin Larsen Vitale from Twisted Scizzors Salon in Cary, the Cary Magazine Maggy Award-winning salon where she works as a master stylist.
What you don’t know is how Vitale spends her free time: Helping families at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham & Wake, in an expanding volunteer role she’s dubbed Project Happy Hair.
“Project Happy Hair began in October 2016, when I met a woman whose 2-year-old toddler was at Duke Hospital undergoing treatment,” Vitale said. The family was staying at Ronald McDonald House, which offers a home away from home and a support system for seriously ill children and their families.
The mom told Vitale about other RMH residents from all over the U.S., and the diagnoses their children were facing: Cancer. Heart disease. Brain surgery.
“I knew I had to do something,” Vitale said, so she contacted RMH to volunteer her hairstyling services.
“When Robin reached out initially, we were so happy,” said volunteer manager Clay Ragan. “We’ve had stylists throughout the years, but it’s been one-and-done. Robin has created something that is consistent and that our families can count on.
“Haircuts are kind of personal and intimate, so a lot of our guests are overwhelmed with the thought of having to find a salon that’s a good fit for them in between hospital appointments and treatment schedules,” Ragan said. “Project Happy Hair makes it easy on our families because the salon comes to them, and Robin is able to put them at ease and deliver a great service for free.”
Vitale set up shop in a community room and brings her own salon tools; she sees as many as eight people in a volunteer day.
Now, to offer more full-service treatments including hair coloring, she’s been granted a larger space at RMH that she’s transforming into Project Happy Hair Salon.
You can help: Vitale needs a wet sink station — a sink can cost up to $1,200 — and a plumber to install it. A salon chair costs up to $1,000. A general contractor is needed to build partitions and counters. And eventually Vitale will need to purchase supplies from shampoos to capes and combs.
To help build Project Happy Hair Salon, you can make a donation through YouCaring.com.
To offer your services as a stylist, contractor or plumber, or to donate salon products, email Vitale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long-term, Vitale would like to set up other Project Happy Hair Salons in Ronald McDonald houses nationwide.
“I’m hoping fellow stylists throughout the Triangle and local beauty schools will want to volunteer their services and make Project Happy Hair a larger, community effort,” she said.
“It truly is an eye-opening experience to witness a spirit be uplifted. There’s nothing like it.”