Merridy Hoover's spirit was abundantly present during the Merridy's Way open house at C-TEC Feb. 27.
"Our friendship was very important to me," said Sandy Simon, co-founder of Merridy's Way, a program providing professionally cleaned recycled wigs to women undergoing chemotherapy. The organization also serves as a clearinghouse for gently used wigs that can be recycled.
Hoover, in her final days of fighting ovarian cancer, asked her friend, Simon, to personally go out and pick up donated wigs.
Simon collected 17 wigs, which she stored at her home. Simon, with friends Laura Main, Lynne Windley, and Kay Barton, who were also friends of Hoover, wanted to see Hoover's vision to lessen the trauma of hair loss for women undergoing chemotherapy come to fruition.
They developed Merridy's Way to provide wigs free of charge to women in Licking County. Simon said the team looked for a cheerful place to establish the program and reached out to C-TEC for help.
They found it.
Julie Ulery, C-TEC's cosmetology instructor and a cancer survivor, and her students in C-TEC's cosmetology program came onboard with Merridy's Way and hosted a Feb. 27 community open house for the Studio Designs Salon and the unique partnership being formed with Merridy's Way and Licking Memorial Health Systems, which houses a clinic in the C-TEC district's building.
Ulery and the cosmetology students provide free, personalized styling for each lady's wig and operate the Studio Designs Salon offering wigs and accessories to local women battling cancer.
Simon said the open house was huge success with nearly 100 people attending and a touching tribute to Hoover, who passed away in July 2012, long before seeing her vision come true.
Simon said the first wig presented during the open house was offered to "a member of the C-TEC family" and, coincidentally, was the wig Simon wore during her own chemotherapy experience. It was chosen from nearly 200 available wigs.
Simon said she believes that had to be more than just coincidence, and it was an example of Hoover's spirit at work.
She said a couple of people dropped off wigs to be donated during the open house event.
"I think this is one of the best things we've ever done," Ulery said of her cosmetology students, who will continue to offer the free wig service to cancer patients.
"It's such a nice way to give to Merridy's Way," Ulery said.
She said she recalls what it was like to lose her own hair to chemotherapy.
"I just remember what a hard day that was," Ulery said. She said wigs can be very expensive and often insurance won't cover the costs.
Merridy's Way has roughly 100 wigs remaining in stock and could use more donations, particularly of long-haired wigs.
Ulery said survivors often don't know what to do with their wigs once chemotherapy's complete because the wigs are expensive and it's tough to simply throw them away.
On the other hand, most women don't wish to be reminded of the experience and the wigs sit unused a closet.
She encourages survivors to donate those wigs to Merridy's Way.
"If you can give someone hope," Simon said, a donation goes a long way.