Hair stylists raise $10,000 for Aspen Hope Center
March 18, 2017
In March 2016, Aspen hair salon owner Marcy DiSalvo quietly began a fundraising mission, telling just a few people about the quest and making sure her employees were on board.
Her idea was inspired by an interview she saw on YouTube with Vidal Sassoon, who recalled the time his daughter Eden's whining prompted him to tell her to do something nice for somebody.
DiSalvo said she also took Sassoon's advice by earmarking $5 from each client served at her M Salon on South Mill Street. Day by day, the money was set aside for the Aspen Hope Center, which helps people in crisis and provides mental-health outreach and suicide-prevention services.
DiSalvo said her hairstylists — John Sisson, Kelly Warner and Jordan Brodersen — believed in the cause and were willing to pay for it out of their own pockets. If, for example, a haircut at M Salon cost $100, the commissioned employees could collect $50 of that sum. Their takeout, however, would be $45 with the $5 contribution.
"It came out of their pay," DiSalvo said. And it came out of hers, too.
The low-profile campaign ran for a year, from March to March. M Salon customers weren't aware of it, while some Hope Center people had a vague idea of what was afoot.
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"I thought I just wanted to do it organically to see what happens," she said.
Meanwhile, customers kept coming to M Salon and the money kept piling up.
At last week's Hope Center fundraiser at the Caribou Club, DiSalvo broke her silence and told the crowd gathered there the story behind the check she was about to give the Hope Center — one for $10,000.
"I have always thought that our world is so far behind in understanding and opening up about mental issues," she told those in attendance. "It's not the most uplifting topic, but it is so real and affects all of us or someone we know."
Aspen Hope Center board president Sandy Iglehart said she remembered DiSalvo mentioning something to her last year about the effort, but she had no idea of the handsome sum the nonprofit would collect.
"It was just a great way to say, 'We're all in this together, and this community needs to support mental health,'" Iglehart said.
There are no hard-and-fast numbers for Aspen or Pitkin County's suicide rates. The Hope Center's website says the county averages four suicides per year, while there are 38,000 annually in the United States. A May 2016 report on National Geographic's Adventure Blog claimed the "number of suicides in Aspen, Colorado, is three times the country's mean rate." In 2005, the year Hunter S. Thompson shot himself to death, Aspen had a suicide rate of 30.5 per 100,000, The Denver Post reported in 2009. That was nearly twice as high as Colorado's 16.9-per-100,000 rate and nearly triple the 10.8 rate nationally.
DiSalvo, in an interview Thursday, said she, like many others, has been touched by mental health and suicide. Her husband, Joe, is the sheriff of Pitkin County, and she has heard through him the stories of welfare checks and thwarted suicide attempts — and the successful attempts, as well.
"Behind the scenes the Hope Center is on the front line," Marcy DiSalvo said at the fundraiser. "They are on the other end of a hotline, and are available to anyone in crisis or if you're just having a bad day and don't know which way to turn. This, to me, makes them also first-responders. The difference is they don't wear a uniform and are hardly recognized because of privacy."
The Hope Center's fundraiser brought in $20,000 that night, not including M Salon's donation, or pledges from other people.
DiSalvo said she hopes other businesses follow suit.
"You don't have to be the wealthiest person to help," she said. "And the reaction I got was so positive."