BENEFITING: American Cancer Society
What does it mean to be #SWISStrong? It means you’re brave. Fierce. Unstoppable. It means you’re a fighter. Inspirational. Determined. Kind. Compassionate. Loving. Selfless. When you’re #SWISStrong, you face each day with a smile while battling demons few can ever truly understand. They’re Earth-bound angels...nothing short of true heroes. THE INSPIRATION: My brother, Steve, was a remarkable man. He was a collegiate athlete (MSU Hockey), and a colorectal surgeon. He was insanely smart, and had this uncanny ability to make everyone around him feel at ease. He was a major goofball, sports fanatic, movie lover, who could erupt a whole room into laughter at the drop of a hat. He was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer when he was 30 years old. Steve underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and then elected to have a pretty major surgery, where they removed the top third of his stomach (and bottom of his esophagus), and then used the bottom third of his stomach to recreate the top third. The surgery was a success, though the recovery was hard. #SWISStrong was the hashtag one of Steve’s friends used in a post regarding his treatments, and the hashtag just stuck. With permission, we began attaching it to every Steve-related post. Steve went on to marry the love of his life in August of 2014, and shortly after, found out his wife was expecting a baby girl. The following January, he was back at the doctors for a pain so severe it was debilitating. After several screens showing the cancer had disappeared, this round of testing proved otherwise. Steve’s cancer was back, and it was more aggressive than ever before. He faced the diagnosis head on, fighting the cancer with everything he had. Steve welcomed his baby girl into this world in May, and one month later, he passed away. He was just 33 years old. THE #SWISStrong CAMPAIGN: When Steve was battling cancer, he took losing his hair pretty hard. He didn’t want anyone to treat him like he was sick, which meant, he didn’t want anyone knowing he was sick, and not having a head of thick, dark, beautiful hair was a sure sign, he wasn’t feeling well. Steve's sister, Sarah, the Evening Anchor at FOX 47 News in Lansing, offered to shave her hair twice, but Steve said that wouldn’t be a good look for television. When he passed away, it was the first thing she wanted to do. But in television, drastic changes to your appearance have to be pre-approved, and getting 8 inches of hair lobbed off, was a drastic change. Sarah was nervous, but passionate, and got the approval from her bosses. But there was a catch... They wanted to send cameras. Not wanting all the focus on her, Sarah planned a hair cutting event for the community, and #SWISStrong was born. EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS: No one had any idea how successful this event was going to be. Sarah knew her brother’s story was important to her, but wasn’t sure how big of an impact it would have on viewers. She set, what she thought was a lofty (but achievable) goal of ten hair donations, and flew past that number before the event started. People were stopping by Dorsey School of Beauty before they even opened for the day, trying to drop off hair, or get a hair cut. The event featured makeovers for women currently battling cancer, an opportunity to donate to the American Cancer Society, and offered information on cancer resources, volunteer opportunities, while keeping the focus on the inspiration for the entire event, Sarah's brother, Steve. #SWISStrong was far more successful than any one could have ever imagined. By the end of the day, 71 people had donated 8” or more of their hair, totaling 638 inches, which were then being donated to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, to be made into wigs for women battling cancer. They raised $1,156 dollars for the American Cancer Society, and had 20 people sign pledges for increased funding for cancer research. And those numbers just continue to grow. People continue to mail hair and monetary donations into the studio, proving that Mid-Michigan truly was (and is!) #SWISStrong. It was so successful, the 2nd-Annual #SWISStrong Hair Cutting Event is on the books! It will be August 13th, from 10am-2pm at Protege Academy in East Lansing. There will be food, music, giveaways, health screenings, and the opportunity to give back to cancer patients in Mid-Michigan through various volunteer opportunities and activities at the event. If you can't make it, feel free to donate here. 100% of the proceeds are going to the American Cancer Society, who helps distribute the wigs (made by Pantene Beautiful Lengths), to local cancer patients.