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Stylists will prune hair to help hospital's cancer research grow

When doctors discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor on the kidney of her 9-week-old daughter, Melissa Helms felt helpless. She couldn't believe a child so young could be so sick.

By the time little Lindsey had successfully completed six months of chemotherapy treatments at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, Helms knew she wanted to use her experience to help others.

She and her husband, Randall, decided to combine their business knowledge _ they own a hair care product distributing company in Drew Park _ with their personal drive to make a contribution.

The result: Fight Kids' Cancer with Style, a 4-year-old event in which hair salons offer discount haircuts to help raise money for cancer research.

"We thought this would be a success because hairdressers are such a creative, enthusiastic bunch," said Helms, a founder and president of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. "They've just thrown themselves into the spirit of things."

The event, which the Helmses began in conjunction with St. Joseph's, takes place again Monday, with 12 local beauty salons donating their time. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children and includes washing, blow-drying and styling. Some salons also offer services such as manicures and facials, and a portion of all the hair care products sold goes into the fund for cancer research.

Gail Moore, owner of Bangs and Burns Hairnetwork, 4027 W Kennedy Blvd., has participated in the event since the beginning. She recently lost her sister to a three-year battle with cancer and understands the need for research.

"Research is the most important part of helping these children," Moore said. "You learn real quick that cancer touches everybody, even children. I wanted to be a part of this event because I know this money will go directly into necessary research. We're limited by our own needs, but we can always donate time."

During the past four years, the event has raised more than $83,000, and this year organizers hope to raise an additional $30,000. The money goes into a fund that the Pediatric Cancer Foundation gives to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital for research.

Pamela Herbert learned the importance of this research when her daughter, Leah, underwent surgery for a tumor in her head four years ago. Now 14, Leah is finishing what she hopes will be the end to years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"The hardest part for me was not knowing why she got cancer," Pamela said. "It would have been easier to accept if I just knew more about it. I realized how important research is when our doctor told us that just a few years ago, he wouldn't have been able to treat her. It makes you realize how far research has come, and how far we still need to go."

Fight Kids Cancer With Style takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

For more information and salon locations, call St. Joseph's Foundation at 870-4340.