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The royal treatment

Photos by Dennis McMurray

January 2015

In early 2005, Kim Becker was a beauty salon owner in Indiana, struggling to find fulfillment in her work. She had remodeled her salon several times, relocated to a new location, and completed additional training in Miami, Chicago and London ­­— all in an effort to fill both a professional and personal void. Then, on a car ride home from Indianapolis with her husband, an idea sprung in Becker’s mind. "It just fell on my heart," she says. "I said, ‘We need to have a mobile day spa that caters to cancer patients. Let’s treat them like a queen during a time where they don’t feel very special.’" Later that year, Hello Gorgeous! of Hope, Inc. was established.

The nonprofit organization now owns and operates two mobile day spas, and Becker and her team also developed a salon affiliate program, which trains salon staff on how to recreate the Hello Gorgeous! experience. The program is now in 33 salons in eight states, and each salon is encouraged to complete one makeover per month. A typical makeover includes a pedicure, manicure, facial, seated massage, makeup application and hair care (or hair substitution). All services are complimentary, and the organization insists that recipients be nominated by a friend or family member, ensuring that the makeover is a complete surprise.

When Ann Saqr, vice president of marketing at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, came across an online video about Hello Gorgeous!, she picked up the phone and called Becker. The duo began planning a makeover event at Wheaton’s St. Francis location. The event was held on Oct. 4, and one recipient was Sonja Lind, who is currently battling stage 4 small cell lung cancer. Lind was nominated by her sister, Eunice Nowak. "At times her mind is consumed with her illness," wrote Nowak in her nomination. "I think this makeover would be wonderful for her, and it would take her mind off her troubles."

And that it did. "I felt fantastic," says Lind. "I was on cloud nine for over a week!" Lind received the full Hello Gorgeous! experience, including her first-ever pedicure. Her makeover reveal was met with a standing ovation.

"When we learned about Hello Gorgeous!, we thought the organization would be a perfect partner to help the individuals we’re treating see more than a cancer patient when they look in the mirror," says Saqr. "With a renewed sense of self confidence, we want each woman to see the courageous, inspiring, beautiful person she is." Currently, Wheaton is the first and only local healthcare provider to have partnered with Hello Gorgeous!

"One of the biggest things we could’ve never seen is the change these women make in us," Becker adds. "They’re going through the battle of a lifetime, and we remind them that they do deserve this." A battle that Lind courageously intends to conquer. "I’m not going to let this (cancer) get me," she says. "I’m going to fight it and beat it."



This story ran in the January 2015 issue of: