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A wig wish come true

Surrey School District hairdressing student Alyssa Araki works on a wig (placed on a male mannequin head) at the school Tuesday afternoon. Below are assistant instructor Nicole Dubois and her aunt Victoria Nichols Simle, who passed away last year after battling throat cancer. - EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER
Surrey School District hairdressing student Alyssa Araki works on a wig (placed on a male mannequin head) at the school Tuesday afternoon. Below are assistant instructor Nicole Dubois and her aunt Victoria Nichols Simle, who passed away last year after battling throat cancer.
— image credit: EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER

Nicole Dubois can’t help but smile as she watches her students wash and style wigs in the school salon.

And when they’re done and sitting atop mannequin heads on the top left shelf, she’s even more pleased because she knows she can soon take them to Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH).

It all makes her think of her Aunt Vicky.

Dubois, an assistant instructor at the Surrey School District’s hairdressing school, helped start a program last September where students clean, maintain, set and style all the hairpieces that are donated to the wig program at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s centre in Surrey.

The idea was actually that of her aunt, Victoria Nichols Simle, who passed away last March after battling throat cancer. Like many patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Simle lost all of her hair.

One day, she noticed a bag of tangled wigs at SMH.

“She said ‘wouldn’t it be great if, where you’re working, you and the students could do the maintenance?’ “ recalled Dubois, “and I said ‘oh wow, that’s a great idea.

“After she passed away, I really wanted to get it going.”

Now, only months into the program, the students have prepared close to 200 wigs for donation. Dubois figures she takes between five and 20 wigs to the hospital weekly.

The service is invaluable for patients who, on top going through a difficult physical time, would have to pay a minimum of $400 for a wig.

But the program is proving equally beneficial for the Grade 11 and 12 hairdressing students. With all the wigs made from a synthetic fibre, they require special care. No heat can be used on them, meaning blow driers and curling irons – and even hot water – are off limits.

“There’s a process – it’s not like doing real hair,” said Dubois, a hairdresser for more than 20 years with an extensive background working with wigs.

It’s specialty training most hairdressing schools do not offer, leaving the Surrey students with something extra on their resumés.

The initiative is close to the students’ hearts as well, Dubois notes, as cancer has touched almost everyone’s lives.

Grade 12 student Lucia Beltrame’s grandfather passed away just last week after a lengthy fight with cancer. She lost another grandparent to cancer last year.

“I totally support the cause because a lot of my family has been through cancer,” Beltrame says.

Looking at a photo of Simle hanging near the entrance of the school salon, Dubois is simply happy she was able to help make her aunt’s suggestion a reality.

“It’s sort of carrying on her legacy,” Dubois said of Simle, who was a longtime employee with the City of Surrey.

“She’s very missed.”

The hairdressing school is in need of wigs. Donations can be dropped off at the school at #700-9260 140 St. For further information, call 604-583-9554. The school also offers a service for wig wearers to come in for one free setting.

 

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