They call it a "reveal."
They call it a "reveal."
It's the moment when a girl suffering from hair loss as a result of cancer treatment or another medical reason first sees herself in a wig provided through the fledgling charity, Operation BeYoutiful.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 2013 by friends Taylor Campbell and Lauren Palmar in their native Uniontown, Pa., and now is chartered at Ohio State University, where Palmar -- whose mother, Andi, is a member of the Clintonville Rotary Club -- is a junior majoring in nonprofit management. She is assisted in Operation BeYoutiful by Ashley Riegert of Cincinnati and other members of a sorority.
"Lauren is good at the nonprofit stuff, not so much the business stuff," junior business major Riegert said last week.
Palmar said she and her friend Campbell, who also is studying nonprofit management but at West Virginia University, conceived of the idea for Operation BeYoutiful after discovering some charitable organizations fail to deliver much of what is promised. It also was around the time Palmar's grandmother died from cancer.
Even before then, Andi Palmar said, Lauren had volunteered for the Leukemia Society in Uniontown.
"My daughter was raised in a volunteer role," Andi Palmar said. "I was involved in many, many different charities, civic organizations, and I dragged her to everything.
"I couldn't be prouder that she is making a career of it, because she is just so passionate about it. She has such a caring and giving heart."
Thus far, two "reveals" have been held for Operation BeYoutiful, Lauren Palmar said. The first was in Uniontown; the second was Friday, Feb. 5, at Atelier Salon, 1120 King Ave. That's when 12-year-old Gabrielle Poulakis, who has alopecia, received her new wig. Operation BeYoutiful brought her to Columbus from Summerville, S.C., to receive it.
Palmar said the experience moved her to tears.
"It was very emotional to see an idea come to fruition," she said. "I'm not a crier because I have two older brothers."
But she said during the first reveal, she began sobbing and the tears flowed when the girl was fitted with her wig and then hugged her mom.
"I have tears in my eyes thinking about it," Riegert said of last week's reveal. "I know this is changing her life entirely."
Finding girls who could use wigs through Operation BeYoutiful -- which Palmar said received a $4,000 grant from OSU -- hasn't been easy.
"We're still trying to get the word out, but it's very difficult with patient privacy laws," Riegert said.
"We as young women know what it's like to have confidence issues," Palmar said.
"It really defines you as a person," Riegert said of hair loss, adding it can be "completely traumatic" for a young girl.
A third wig fitting is scheduled for Feb. 20 as word is beginning to spread via social media, including the organization's Facebook page.
"We have a process," Riegert said. "We're starting to get people."
"It's like overnight," Palmar said.
The cost of the wigs for Operation BeYoutiful is around $700 each, Riegert said, though Palmar added they would retail for as much as $1,800.
"We're all about quality," Palmar said. "Even if this stays a side project, we're OK with that, as long as we're helping people."
But the young women can't help but dream of the possibility that one day Operation BeYoutiful might be a thriving national nonprofit.
"I want to see her succeed in this," Andi Palmar said. "Ashley and Lauren have been friends for several years, and Ashley has been an unbelievable inspiration and help. She's definitely a huge asset to the organization."
After they graduate from Ohio State, Riegert said she and Palmar hope to move to New York City and work in the nonprofit sector.