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WeAre zycnzj.com/http://www.zycnzj.com/ 12 | TUESDAY, APRIL 13, 2010 THE DAILY COLLEGIAN Ryan Ulsh/Collegian Russell Gutch poses at his salon Changing Times Hair Design at 333 S. Allen St. on Thursday. Gutch is the only stylist in Pennsylvania certified to make prosthetic wigs. While the wigs usually sell for $3,000 to $6,000, Gutch makes them free for children who have cancer. The wigs each take 80 hours to hand craft. HELPING KIDS SMILE AGAIN Stylist works to change lives one wig at a time By Brendan McNally To see a video of Russell Gutch COLLEGIAN STAFF WRITER explaining what he does for T ake one look at Russell Gutch, and Wigs for Kids go to: you’ll know he’s a New Yorker. He’s ONLINE psucollegian.com a charismatic, smooth-talking Italian — collar popped, hair combed back was just a great gift, not to have to worry — with a slight accent that has The Bronx about appearance.” written all over it. Today, Gutch only owns one salon, which But if you ask him about the work he does he runs with the help of assistant Susie for Wigs for Kids, an organization that pro- Battles. But he used to be a big-time New vides free wigs to children with cancer, the York stylist who studied and trained for 69-year-old’s toughness melts away. nearly a decade to rack up certifications in “I get pretty emotional,” he said after a cosmetology, barbering and hair replace- pause. “When you see the kids when they ment. are being treated — the condition they are He moved to State College from New in — it makes me emotional.” York in his early thirties to raise his family, Gutch, who owns Changing Times Hair and friends say he’s fit in pretty well ever Designs, 333 S. Allen St., is the only stylist in since. Pennsylvania certified to make prosthetic After moving to State College, his wife, a wigs for children. Most of his wigs go to chil- cancer nurse, sparked his interest in volun- dren suffering from cancer. teering for Wigs for Kids. It didn’t take long More than 150,000 strands of individually before he was sold. hand-knotted human hair and 80 hours of “I took one look at the equation and said, work go into each custom-made wig. ‘Wow, it would be neat if I could get [Wigs Children can “sleep, shower and swim” for Kids] into THON,’ ” Gutch said. “ ‘If we with Gutch’s wigs on, he said. could pull that off, it would be fantastic.’ ” Wigs for Kids Executive Director Mark He did pull it off, but it took 12 years and Campo said the wigs would usually sell for a lot of luck. $3,000 to $6,000. But thanks to Gutch, chil- After more than a decade, Wigs for Kids’ dren can be children again at no cost. Gutch big break literally walked into Gutch’s salon makes the wigs for kids with cancer free of one afternoon, when a student involved charge. with the Interfraternity “I am there to make them feel like a kid,” Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon Gutch said. “I look at their face, and I know: came by selling ads for a directory. The two They’re back.” got to talking, and Gutch’s charm did the rest. Ryan Ulsh/Collegian In 2004, Marie Koudela, the first child to receive a wig from Gutch, was diagnosed Just like that, Gutch landed a speaking Russell Gutch talks about hair follicles at Changing Times Hair Design on Thursday. with osteosarcoma at the age of 15. She spot for Wigs for Kids’ founder and interna- went through 16 chemotherapy treatments tionally renowned hair stylist Jeffrey Paul was a child. In the summer, she would walk a rush, though. We were jamming. We were and surgery to replace cancerous bone in at THON. by the salon every day on her way to the having some fun.” her leg. The partnership has lasted, and this year Schlow Centre Region Library, but she Gutch will tell you that “if you look good, During treatment, she couldn’t walk. Still, alone, Wigs for Kids collected 45 ponytails never imagined she would work there you feel good.” But when he makes you look she said losing her hair was one of the hard- at the dance marathon. someday. good, it’s obvious he feels even better. est parts. THON raised $7,838,054 this year, but “He used to have all these different col- Hanging on the wall of his salon, he still When she was going through the hardest trial of her life, Gutch made things just a lit- zycnzj.com/http://www.zycnzj.com/ those 45 ponytails might make just as big an impact as all those millions of dollars. ored wigs for the holidays,” Battles said. “So as a kid, I kind of thought he was crazy.” has a picture of him and Paul from that night. Their faces were beaming. tle more normal, she said. “There is a strong link between self- But after working for him, Battles’ “Russell is a guy who has a heart as big “He made things easier,” she said. “That image and self-esteem and the ability to impression of Gutch completely changed. as the great outdoors,” Campo said. “He heal,” Campo said. “Restoring that self- Now, she is learning the trade firsthand goes out of his way to help people.” image can have a huge impact on a child.” from Gutch and will be traveling to Florida As much as Gutch has been given, he’s He said Wigs for Kids receives 10 to 12 in September to get certification for hair given back a lot more. He makes people feel thousand ponytails a year from around the replacement and hair extensions. With that good about themselves every day, and he’s world, but the sad reality is the wigs Gutch certification, she could work more closely made kids feel more like kids during the designs cost a lot of money to make. Wigs with Gutch and maybe take his place as the hardest time of their lives. for Kids has yet to receive a cent from next person in Pennsylvania certified to And those children will never forget it. THON, he said. make children’s prosthetic wigs. Six years later, Koudela is a junior at “We’re not done,” Gutch said. “We need But until then, Gutch plans to continue Penn State majoring in nutritional sci- funds. We got hair, but we need to find a the work he loves doing. ences, but she still calls Gutch a “great way to get into the [Hershey Four “My children say to me, ‘Dad, why don’t friend.” Diamonds Fund].” you retire?’ I am retired,” he said. “I’m “He’s just a great person and compas- Finding a spot for Wigs for Kids in the doing my job. The satisfaction is taking your sionate about what he does,” she said. “He Four Diamonds Fund, Gutch said, would be God-given talent and giving it back.” really wanted to help in any way he could.” icing on the cake for his “marvelous Gutch said as he has gotten older, the But for Gutch, he was just doing his job. career.” young students at Penn State have been “That’s the game,” he said. “I’m a hair But no matter what, the charity has a coming into his salon less and less. He said stylist.” bright future in State College. that’s OK, but he wants students to know: “You know, I’m not going to be around He’s still “hot” when it comes to cutting To e-mail reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org forever,” Gutch said. “And the torch some- hair. day is going to have to be passed.” He likes to tell the story of how he and Battles could be the new torchbearer for Paul came into the salon one night to cut If you know years to come. Gutch said he couldn’t run the hair of four students for THON. Ryan Ulsh/Collegian the salon without her: After coming on “The funny part is, we walk in the door, Do you know someone you think should Russell Gutch poses with one of his shops board three and a half years ago, Battles is and they took one look at Jeff and I and say, be on the We Are page? Call us at (814) wigs. More than 150,000 strands of individ- already managing the salon like a veteran. ‘These guys know how to cut hair? A couple 865-1828 or e-mail ually hand-knotted human hair go into them. Battles said she knew Gutch since she of old geezers?’ ” he said, laughing. “It was email@example.com.
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