Marie Winters always wears a lock of pink in her short hair. It’s a sign of her support for people suffering from cancer.
But Winters, who splits her time between Savannah and Thunder Bay, Ontario, is also a Highlights for Hope technician, which means she can braid those same pink hair extensions into other’s tresses.
“Why not wear a little bit of pink?” she said. “It’s just a visible means of showing support.”
Highlights for Hope is a Canadian organization based in Thunder Bay. It is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for cancer research, support and education, according to its website. Winters brought the foundation to America last year when she helped raise $300 for the Richmond Hill Relay for Life.
And Winters is back this year. She’ll be at the Hair Station at 2491 Hwy. 17 in Richmond Hill from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday raising money for Dollars for Dylan, a fund set up to help Dylan Moore, a 9-year-old Richmond Hill boy who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia late last year.
It costs $20 to get a highlight, $10 of which goes directly to the fundraiser.
It takes 10 minutes to get a lock of pink braided hair, and men can have pink highlights weaved into their beards, Winters said. The extensions will stay in for about a month, she added.
Theresa Harkins, the owner of the Hair Station, said she met Winters at a recent fundraising meeting for Dollars for Dylan. She said she was happy to help with Highlights for Hope since she owns a hair salon.
“All the money is going toward Dylan,” she said, “and we’re doing anything we can to raise money for him.”
Winters, who will be in the Richmond Hill area until mid-March and hopes to spend more time here next year, said she was moved to help Dylan after reading about his diagnosis in local newspapers.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see what these kids are going through,” she said, noting that she’s donated to other kids with cancer and is passionate about helping them.
Rod Miller, a friend of the Moore family, said it is “great” that Winters will be helping the family this weekend. The community has been very supportive of Dylan, he added.
“[There’s] just a whole lot of events toward helping Dylan out,” Miller said.
Highlights for Hope was founded in the summer of 2005 by Kelly Ruberto, a wig and hair replacement specialist based in Thunder Bay, Ontario. To date, the organization has raised more than $65,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“Each person that gets one, it’s symbolic,” Ruberto said. “I have so many people that are just passionate about wearing them.”
Winters didn’t get her first highlight until 2007, when a friend’s son was diagnosed with cancer.
In 2009, Winters’ daughter was visiting her in Ontario and wanted to get a highlight before she traveled back to Richmond Hill. Winters said she told Ruberto that she’d be interested in helping her expand to the United States.
“She was just in the process of getting her trademark and copyright when I mentioned it to her,” Winters said.
She then received training to become a Highlights for Hope technician.
Ruberto said Winters has been an amazing and dependable volunteer.
“She is very passionate about helping others. She really loves to help children,” she said. “She’s gung-ho.”
Highlights for Hope is getting ready to launch its United States branch around July, Ruberto said.
Winters has been passionate about bringing the organization to Georgia and is the only technician in the United States.
Winters is mobile. All she needs to set up her highlight station is a table, the banner, the pink hair extensions, string and a travel-sized water spray bottle, hairspray and hand sanitizer.
People notice pink highlights, Winters said, and raising awareness is the whole purpose of the campaign.
“Everybody is affected by cancer in some way,” she said. “And if you’re not, you’re darn lucky.”
For more information, call Winters at 398-9798 or 856-6405.