- November 16, 2021
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Updated: November 16, 2021 @ 2:50 am
Serving Greater Johnstown Since 1853
Andi Palmer keeps Operation BeYoutiful running
Andi Palmer keeps Operation BeYoutiful running
Restoring confidence in those who experience hair loss
Andi Palmar is happy to know that, thanks to a charitable organization she helped establish, dozens of women have once again been able to pick up their hair brush.
Palmar and her daughter, Lauren, started Operation BeYoutiful in 2015. The nonprofit provides wigs to local girls and women who have lost their hair due to illness – including hormonal changes, arthritis, chemotherapy or autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata.
Initially, Operation BeYoutiful was for little girls with alopecia.
“Alopecia has more than 200,000 cases a year,” Palmar says.
Since alopecia is a life-long hair problem, Operation BeYoutiful “can follow the person through their life and offer several wigs.”
The idea for the nonprofit was all Lauren’s idea.
“My daughter was the youngest of four kids and the only girl,” Palmar says. “She participated with me in all my civic and philanthropic activities, which led her (a high schooler at the time) to want her own nonprofit. She felt too much (of an organizations donations) went to salaries and other expenses.”
One night Palmar and her girlfriends held a fund-raiser for a friend with breast cancer. “She was a single mom with two kids and a wig was just not in the budget,” she says. “Lauren was helping at the event also. When we returned home, she said, ‘I want to create a foundation to give wigs to little girls.’”
From there, the mother and daughter started the process of building Operation BeYoutiful.
At just 17, Lauren was CEO.
A few years later, Lauren relocated to Colorado for her master’s degree. Thankfully, the hair strands of Operation BeYoutiful were not cut and Palmar decided to run the nonprofit.
The Westmont resident says she has reached out to healthcare providers as well as local cancer centers and social workers in town and at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to connect with those in need of the organization’s services.
“There is no charge for the wig,” Palmar says. “We accept everyone from all levels of income.”
On the application, recipients are asked their current medical diagnosis, where they are being treated and how they heard of the organization.
Palmar says the majority of the recipients have some form of cancer.
While she hasn’t experienced hair loss herself, Palmar saw her mother struggle with losing her hair as she underwent chemotherapy.
Although she lost her 10 years ago, Palmar vividly remembers how losing her hair impacted her mother. “(I remember) standing behind her as my father shaved her head. Mom cried and cried.”
While she now has individuals and healthcare providers who assist her in sharing the mission of Operation BeYoutiful, Palmar admits to working long hours. She works a full-time position at Memorial Highway Chevrolet, while promoting the visibility of Operation BeYoutiful.
Palmar says she is willing to speak to anyone willing to listen. “I have spoken at several Rotary Clubs, church groups, even to school counselors.”
In 2020, Operation BeYoutiful partnered with NuHart Hair in Richland Township where wigs are “hand chosen by our wig specialist.”
Earlier this year, the organization teamed up with Lush Salon in Windber, to provide spa treatments to recipients. Palmar says she wanted “to enhance the overall experience. This is something that’s usually not in their budgets.”
Currently, Palmar is reaching out to ethnic hair salon owners to let them know of Operation BeYoutiful’s services. “Unfortunately, we have not had a black or Asian recipient,” she says. “We can provide wigs for all ethnicities.”
Operation BeYoutiful also welcomes the opportunity to work with boys and men who are battling medically related hair loss.
“Society has accepted seeing men who are bald and not thinking anything about it,” she says. “When a woman is bald, they immediately wonder what’s wrong with her.
“I am sure there are men who struggle with hair loss just like women. Men can be recipients. I welcome the opportunity to work with men.”
Palmar says funding is always a concern for Operation BeYoutiful. “My first priority is to provide wigs. I never want to turn a woman away.”
The organization’s second annual Holiday Haul Raffle Ticket is one of the ways the nonprofit raises money to continue offering free services to those who need them.
“Think of the fund-raiser as The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Palmar says.
Tickets are $20 and are on sale through Dec. 11. The drawings take place Dec. 12 through Dec. 23.
Winning numbers receive prizes valued from $750 to $2500. Tickets can be purchased on OperationBeYoutiful’s website, from local committee members (watch social media), at Memorial Highway Chevrolet in Windber and Somerset, Nu Hart Hair in Richland Township and at Lush Salon in Windber.
For more information on the organization, go to www.operationbeyoutiful.org.
Johnstown Magazine is a positive and forward-thinking monthly publication for the people of our region. Focusing on lifestyle pieces, biographies, food and drink and more, we cover the Greater Johnstown area and the residents that make it unique. A publication of The Tribune-Democrat.
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