The statistics are frightening.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, except for skin cancers. One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. About 39,510 women will die from it this year.
The good news is death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990, believed to be the result of earlier detection through increased screening and awareness, as well as improved treatment. At this time, there are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Matthew Phillips, owner of on LaSalle Road and at Blue Back Square, is a man who wants to envision a future with a cure for breast cancer. For the past 11 years, he and a dedicated group of volunteers have done their part to try and make that cure a reality.
On Sunday, May 6, Phillips will be holding his 12th Annual Cut-A-Thon at his LaSalle Road location to benefit breast cancer research programs at the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital. This year’s event will be dedicated to the memory of , a champion for breast cancer research and the co-author of the book “The Home Team,” written with her daughter UConn basketball star Rebecca Lobo. After battling breast cancer for sixteen years, Ruth Ann passed away in July of 2011.
Phillips was inspired to hold his first cut-a-thon after attending a yearly meeting of The Salon Association, an international organization of owners and stylists.
“Our organization is always giving back, whether it is building homes through Habitat for Humanity or going to hospitals and helping people,” states Phillips.
After coming home from one of the meetings 12 years ago, he was cutting the hair of one of his loyal customers, Dr. Andrew Salner, chief of the Department of Radiation and Oncology at Hartford Hospital and director of the hospital’s Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center. He approached the doctor about the idea of a hair cutting fundraiser. Through the year, with the doctor’s blessing, Phillips has managed to grow the fundraiser, turning it into an event that nearly 250 people attend.
Phillips now looks forward to it annually, on the Sunday before Mother’s Day.
Despite all of the hard work that goes into planning the event, Phillips is full of bouncy energy and shows no sign of fatigue. “This event makes me feel great. It’s a very happy day because we have a lot going on all the time, all day. We are the perfect vehicle for doing this because, in this business, we deal with so many women.”
Dr. Salner has nothing but praise for Phillips' commitment to breast cancer research, noting that Phillips starts planning the next year’s event a couple of weeks after the last one has ended. “The cut-a-thon is one way that Matthew and Shari (Matthew’s wife and co-owner of Per Se salon) give back to the community and allow the community to give back as well."
Salner goes on to mention how important funding is to breast cancer research, increasing awareness and providing programs, such as Hartford Hospital’s mobile program that brings mammograms to those who have no medical insurance. “Supporting this event really pays dividends. Not only do you help one person but you can help thousands. I can’t thank Matthew and Shari enough for what they do.”
From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., nearly a dozen hair stylists volunteers from Aveda salons all over the region will be cutting hair inside the salon and outside in front on the sidewalk. Phillips assures that they are all award-winning stylists.
“They know what they are doing and they want to help year after year because they have been touched by cancer.” For $25, a customer can receive a haircut – but no blow dry. They must be prepared to leave the salon with a wet head.
That’s a small price to pay for donating money to the worthy cause and Phillips proudly notes that every penny raised that day will be donated to the Hartford Hospital. In addition to the haircuts, there will be music and refreshments, a raffle and a plentiful silent auction to offer, among many things, restaurant gift certificates, original oil paintings, a Red Sox player signed baseball, a basketball signed by the women’s UConn Huskies, theater tickets, jewelry and wines. In addition, everyone attending goes home with a goody bag of Aveda products.
Phillips expects, as in previous years, that local news personalities will trickle in and out of the salon all day.
Customers can just walk in to the salon the day of the fundraiser. There is no need to pre-register. Raffle tickets are being sold now for various smaller items like dinners and theater tickets. Phillips encourages his customers to invest in the tickets which sell for $ and are sold in bunches of fives. “I tell my clients this is all for research. You are a woman … you might have a daughter, granddaughter. The dollar you spend may be the dollar that helps.”
While he speaks mainly of the women that the funds will benefit, Phillips knows firsthand that breast cancer touches everyone. “I even have guys who come to my salon and they have had breast cancer. It more rare but it does affect men too.”
This year he is trying a new fundraising tactic: the virtual haircut. People may log on to his website and “buy” a haircut for a donation of $25. If it is successful, he says that he might have it up and running all year long.
As usual, Dr. Salner will be attending the event. “It’s an opportunity to give back and really see tangible results as well as support a local person in the community. It’s a win-win situation.”
Matthew Phillips Salon is located at 68 LaSalle Road. The cut-a-thon will be held inside and outside of the salon on the front sidewalk. A pink tent will be set up outside so inclement weather will not be an issue. For more information call: 860-523-5261.