Third Cuts Against Cancer benefits Claudia Mayer Center


August 24, 1999|By John J. Snyder | John J. Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ON SUNDAY, nearly 400 people came to Patrick's Hair Design on Red Branch Road for the third Cuts Against Cancer, a fund-raiser for the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource and Image Center. Eleven salons -- six of them from east Columbia -- volunteered to provide haircuts, manicures and massages to benefit the cancer center.

A one-stop shop for cancer patients, their families and caregivers, the center is housed in a neat one-story brick building on Cedar Lane, near Hickory Ridge Road. Its rooms are painted in soothing colors and filled with comfortable furnishings.

Hairdressers custom-fit, cut and style wigs for clients. Professional cosmetologists offer advice on makeup. Prostheses can be tried on in privacy. It's a homey refuge with a one-chair mini-salon for personal service.

In addition, the center's library contains resources on cancer-related subjects and an Internet connection to help users conduct additional research.

"We treat the whole rest of the person," said center coordinator Sharon Zamkoff, referring to the center's mission to help with the emotional and aesthetic problems that may follow a diagnosis of cancer.

"We put them in touch with the support groups and offer a nonclinical place to deal with the effects of cancer on the family."

The center opened in April 1998. Claudia Mayer, a resident of Hickory Ridge, died of breast cancer in November 1996.

Her spirit still moves people.

"She was everybody's cheerleader," said her husband, physician Bill Mayer. "Even right after a bone marrow transplant, she was reassuring new cancer patients. The nurses at Georgetown Hospital, where she went, wanted to stay in touch after she died because her spirit was so special."

Her courage and generosity did not go unnoticed by friends and neighbors.

When she died, Howard County General Hospital President Victor Broccolino and his wife, Tina, were already creating a place where cancer victims could find help in a nonclinical setting. They decided to name it for Claudia Mayer.

"Vic came to me at Claudia's funeral and asked about the image center idea," said Bill Mayer. " `That's Claudia,' I said."

Albert and Victoria Clark, owners of the Victoria and Albert Hair Studio in Hickory Ridge, are neighbors of the Mayer family. Claudia was their client.

Asked to donate money to the fledgling resource center, Albert Clark had an idea. " `We can do better than that,' " Victoria Clark recalls her husband saying.

"There was nothing like the resource center in Howard County," she says. "We needed one."

Albert called Karen Engel, owner of George of New York, Patrick Hagen of Patrick's Hair Design, and John and Pam Mason of Mason and Friends, with the idea for a cut-a-thon to benefit the center. Without hesitation, they all signed on.

"We get to know our customers over the long term," says Pam Mason. "A stylist establishes a personal relationship with a client." Hairdressers sometimes feel helpless when clients became ill, she said.

When she got the call from the Clarks, Mason says, she knew they were on to something. "This is the perfect venue for us to give back to the community that supports us," she said.

On Sunday, a battalion of hairdressers, cosmetologists, masseurs and shampooers were waiting for customers at the door to Patrick's hair salon. The cut-a-thon was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., but when Karen Engels arrived at 10: 30 a.m., customers were lined up.

Some had come for a manicure. Alphonsine Nuse, owner of Alphonsine's Personal Touch at Patrick's, was kept busy in her corner all day, a rainbow of nail polishes at her fingertips.

Nuse, a lifelong resident of Long Reach and a Howard High School graduate, saw real community feeling in the event.

"It's thick with Columbia spirit here," she said. "We've all got to be aware of this disease because we are all affected by it one way or another."

This year, newcomers Sphere Concept Salon and envy salon joined the four founding salons and Chalet Hair Salon, Lutfi's International Hair Design, Rafet's Hairmasters and Solon Francisco Hair Studio to raise nearly $8,000.

Their staff members volunteer to work with cancer patients at the resource and image center throughout the year.

Sitting in Patrick's on Sunday, attorney Michelle Mayer Motsko was thrilled with the turnout.

Motsko, the Mayers' daughter, brought her two children, Madison, 2, and Connor, 1, to the event.

Madison was born two months after Claudia Mayer died.

"My mother had a resolve to give," Motsko said. "She was a true mother, a caring mother. She had a smile that warmed the room. Up to the day she died, she was a mentor to a lot of women."

Outside, on a perfect sunny day, smoke rose from a grill. A margarita machine whirred, popcorn popped and soft jazz played on a stereo.

Theresa Hagen, Patrick's wife and the salon's administrator, kept the overflow crowd entertained and fed while they waited for a vacant chair.

"These people are wonderful," she said. "We will see them all again next year when we do it at Rafet's."

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