Carl Sandburg College Cosmetology Offers Wigs to Cancer Patients

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
(Clockwise from far left) Carl Sandburg College cosmetology students Alana Anderson, Renee Colclasure, and Demi Baker watch as Courtney Heiser with the American Red Cross demonstrates some of the new wig offerings and pieces on the head of student Ally Austin. (Photo courtesy of Carl Sandburg College)

Carl Sandburg College (CSC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have partnered up to offer free wigs and wig-related services to anyone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or is actively going through treatment. The services are now available at the CSC School of Cosmetology located at the CSC Annex, 209 East Main Street, Galesburg. Along with wig selection, services include cutting and styling of the hairpiece, and additional options include hats, scarves and turbans – all free of charge.

Once clients come to the CSC Annex to be fitted for a wig, it can then be thinned out, cut, shortened, styled, and students will offer these services free of charge. “It’ll be a one-stop shop,” explains Courtney Heiser, senior patient services representative and PNS trainer with the ACS. “A client comes in, picks out a comfortable wig, gets fitted, and can have it thinned out or these other services such as a hat, scarf or a turban. We want to make sure everyone feels confident and comfortable with their decision, and to make this process as easy as possible.”

Heiser and Barb Kirchgessner, coordinator of cosmetology at Sandburg, have worked together over the course of several weeks to implement the new products and services into the cosmetology program. Heiser operates out of the Peoria ACS office, representing the West Central and Northwest regions, and has discovered a need for the service in the area. “The need is with the distance; the nearest wig boutique is in Peoria or Roseville,” said Heiser. “It’s driving distance, so I wanted to be able to bring the service here to this community and surrounding areas, because you have radiation and chemotherapy right here in Galesburg, and you have another cancer treatment center in Monmouth, but you have no access to wigs, hats, turbans, scarves, and we want to be able to continue to provide that free of charge in the communities.”

“I’m excited for this new service the College will be able to offer,” said Kirchgessner. “Cancer is a devastating disease, and we have an opportunity to help put people’s lives back together. Hair is such an important component to one’s sense of identity. The ability to offer wigs, and cut and color options with those wigs, can help in the recovery process.

“Additionally, the students have a great opportunity not only to help clients, but also to build on their own skills which will help them as they venture into their careers. Wigs and the options that go with them have come a long way, and it’s a field that continues to grow. The students will be able to learn the basics and build upon that as the demands for the industry continue to grow. Ultimately it’s a great opportunity for the students, the College, and the community.”

Heiser shared that this will not only be a great experience for the clients, but also for the students. “It puts their (students) expertise to use out in the community, linking them up and being able to help hands-on with someone and knowing that they got the services out there to that individual who needed it,” said Heiser. “I think it will be a very warming experience for a lot of people – being able to use their teachings and to be able to know that when a client leaves here, that they have fulfilled their need. It can be a sense of gratification for most people.”

Heiser shares her view on the disease. “Cancer doesn’t pick and choose – it doesn’t discriminate. A diagnosis can happen to anyone, so we want to make sure the community is educated and that they have a core group of students here, and future students that come here can get involved in Relay for Life and get out there for fundraising efforts to make sure that we can keep the services strong in the community.”

For more information on the new wig and other services at the Carl Sandburg College Annex, contact (309) 344-2595.

(Fully visible from left) Carl Sandburg College cosmetology students Demi Baker, Alana Anderson, Ally Austin and Renee Colclasure familiarize themselves with the new wigs. (Photo courtesy of Carl Sandburg College)