The National Museum of Women in the Arts was transformed this past Thursday night, March 26, into the venue for Lolly’s Locks’ third annual “Evening of Food, Fashion and Inspiration.”
The event took place in a beautiful room with a grand staircase and wrap-around landing overlooking the runway. The room was spectacularly lit with gold chandeliers and white floor lights. Chairs were set up on either side of the runway for the guests who bought VIP tickets. Waiters walked around with scrumptious appetizers and local food vendors were positioned around both the upstairs and downstairs.
The featured chefs were drawn from a variety of places, including Taco Bama, Del Campo, Little Red Fox, Black’s Bar and Kitchen, Rangoli, Buttercream Bakeshop, Cashion’s Eat Place, Beuchert’s Saloon, Bar Pilar and Boundary Road.
Groups of friends, young couples, old couples, businessmen, businesswomen, family and friends of Lolly mingled around the dazzling room, trying the tasty treats and bidding on the items in the silent auction room before the event started.
Lolly’s Locks is a nonprofit organization that connects cancer patients in need with high-quality wigs. Jaime Wright and her family founded the organization a few weeks after her mother, Lolly Toll, died of cancer in March 2012. Wright explained in her welcome address that after Lolly was diagnosed with cancer she went to purchase a wig, knowing she would lose her hair during chemotherapy. She was stunned to learn that a good wig, one that makes the woman comfortable and is undetectable, can cost anywhere between $1200 and $3000 dollars. Insurance does not usually cover wigs for women who are losing hair due to cancer treatment.
Many women undergoing cancer treatment are not able to afford these expensive wigs, a problem that Lolly was well-attuned to.
“It was her dream and we continued what she really wanted to start,” Jaclyn Toll said about her stepmother Lolly and their overall mission.
Goldie Gottlieb, Lolly’s mother, said, “Lolly really started it because when she got well, her hope was that she would help those who could not afford wigs.”
Lolly’s Locks has provided over 300 women with high-quality wigs, and has not had to turn down any applications yet.
“Jaime passed up her job as an attorney to start the organization and fulfill Lolly’s wish,” Gottlieb said. The organization continues to grow every year and has expanded its reach to 42 states, including Washington, D.C.
One of the challenges facing Lolly’s Locks is its small size, so getting the name out there and spreading awareness is important. The fashion show was a great way to do this.
“We wanted something that would be inspiring. Wigs and fashion go together,” Toll said.
The organization has grown and continues to reach more and more women.
When asked how this show is different from the last two events, Jaime said, “It is the biggest we’ve ever done. We get more recipients as we get more clients.”
Creating an event on a larger scale has its challenges as well.
“It’s all juggling. Getting people here, finding the venue — a lot goes into it but we have the best time,” Wright said.
Semra Tanrikulu, owner of Semra Skincare salon in Georgetown, understands the mission behind Lolly’s Locks and the importance of making it known.
“Socializing and being part of the event raises awareness,” she said.
The silent auction had an amazing selection of items to bid on. The items offered included trips to places like Florida and New England, tickets to events such as the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, fashion and jewelry, skincare and beauty products (many donated by Tanrikulu’s salon), food and wine, fitness deals and memberships, art and photography, sports memorabilia, family packages and furniture.
Tanrikulu’s salon donates to Lolly’s Locks every year; Tanrikulu bid on and won the Chanel bag during the silent auction. The bag was priced at $1600, and wigs are around $1200.
“I know it’s going to go a long way. It feels good,” she said. Semra’s bid will help a woman in need of a wig.
By the end, Lolly’s Locks had raised $13,170 in donations — the silent auction raised $22, 275. They sold over $116,500 in corporate sponsorships, and over $27,000 in ticket sales.
The fashion show segment of the night featured a collection of beautiful clothing by Bloomingdale’s. The first song the models walked out to was Destiny Child’s aptly chosen “I’m a Survivor.” Bloomingdales provided a variety of styles that changed with each song. During one song the models wore all pink, presenting a powerful image of femininity and beauty. During another song they walked out wearing bold animal prints, another was all black and white, and in another they all wore big floppy hats. What was most remarkable was that all the models were wearing wigs (Wigs by Shevy), which looked natural and stunning.
After the fashion show portion, Michelle Schoenfeld spoke as the honored guest. Schoenfeld is a cancer survivor and author of “Bittersweet,” a blog she started writing when she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer last year. She spoke enigmatically and was honest about her experiences. She did not know Lolly personally, but being good friends with Wright, she wanted to be a part of Lolly’s Locks. She had no direct connection with cancer when Jaime asked her to be a part of the organization. Three weeks later, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She is now on the executive planning committee.
This past year, Schoenfeld went through six rounds of chemo.
“I know what it’s like. It’s not about vanity. It’s about dignity, about going out in public and being able to pretend for a little while that you’re normal. That your reality is different. This is why I love Lolly’s Locks so much,” she stated in the speech.
“I am tied to my hair, so to lose it and not have hair was the hardest thing at the time. You lose all your femininity,” Schoenfeld said.
After going through countless surgeries, medications, and chemotherapy, Michelle can enthusiastically say she feels great, but it will be another four years before she can say she is in remission.
Her message moved everyone in the audience.
“I’ve been described as a thoroughbred blonde from Texas — but that doesn’t mean anything. It is what is inside that matters. I didn’t know that then. No eyebrows, no eyelashes, I didn’t know what my identity was. You don’t lose yourself. You are just now the acoustic version of yourself. This timeout changed my life. It taught me about love and self-love,” Schoenfeld said in her speech.
Afterwards, there was a video presentation which gave the accounts of numerous women who are being helped by Lolly’s Locks. The women in the video addressed the issue of how is not a superficial thing to want to have a nice head of hair.
“When you lose it, you lose more than your hair … it is so much more than a bad hair day … it is about dignity, privacy and empowerment,” Cokie Roberts, political commentator for NPR and ABC, said during the film’s introduction.
Her message was clear from the beginning.
“Lolly’s Locks provides women with wigs they need to feel good and feel like they have dignity” she said.
Everyone who directly participated in the event along with those not present who have ongoing ties with the organization are thankful for what Lolly’s Locks has done. The show was an all-around success, drawing participants with its upbeat and self-celebratory atmosphere surrounding such a serious topic. The speeches were memorable and heartfelt, the food delicious, the fashion gorgeous, and the cause inspiring.
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