Coronavirus: Cancer charity finds new way to raise funds amid pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A lot of local charities are struggling right now, but an organization that aids cancer patients has been hit especially hard. That's because the industry that supports them has been all but shut down by the COVID-19 crisis.

The charity sprang from a technology tested here in the Bay Area that has been life changing for thousands of cancer patients. Known at scalp cooling, it allows patients to keep from losing their hair during chemotherapy. When the FDA cleared the first automated device in 2015, insurance didn't cover it.

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"So, to level the playing field, we created Hair to Stay, so we could fund relatively low income patients," says Hair to Stay co-founder Bethany Hornthal.

Hornthal turned to the hair care industry itself for help and says the response was overwhelming. Manufacturers and high-end salons like diPietro Todd in the Bay Area pledged money and support.

"What a fantastic thing. To be able to use a machine to not lose your hair, so you can feel better and get better," says diPietro Todd founder Andrew Todd.

The group set a goal in January of helping 1,000 new patients -- then COVID-19 hit. Soon, salons were forced to shut their doors, events were canceled, but the need continued to grow.

"COVID has shut down salons and others things but it hasn't shut down cancer, unfortunately," says Hornthal.

While many small salons struggle to restart their business, Hair to Stay has come up with a colorful alternative to help raise money for their cancer patients in the meantime -- pop-up cabarets, brought right to a donor's home.

"Deliver to the home a meal from some of the top chefs in the city, along with a bottle of wine and a gift from the hair care industry, and then we're going to curate a show with magic and comedy and music," explains Hornthal.

They're hoping the pop-up cabarets, which begin next month, will bridge the gap, while the salons ramp up for reopening. It's a slow return to normal that will hopefully put an industry and a vital charity back on their feet.

"We have to, we have to, it's important," echoes Todd.

Hair to Stay is hoping to help the performers and restaurants who participate as well. If you're interested in the pop-up cabarets and learning how to help, visit this page.

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