Marijane Reavley had been friends with Lisa Dettlinger for years. She always loved watching her eco-loving pal in action around the community & when the time came for her to find a volunteer outlet in the city it was a natural fit to jump on board at Louisville Grows where Lisa served as the Program Director. Little did she know that it would become a huge piece of her support system through the hardest battle of her life.
Non-profits like Louisville Grows live off the love & investment of their volunteers, so it was easy for Marijane to dive in & make a difference by helping with everyday tasks, community projects, & regular events at the Healthy House in the Portland neighborhood on the West End. When she first began volunteering in September 2018 she felt “energized and amazed at the teamwork, intelligence and savvy of the entire staff” & “couldn’t wait to go back and be around the wonderful, inspiring energy and commitment” over & over again.
Marijane became an integral part of life at Healthy House & when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the news hit the whole team hard. She began chemotherapy & radiation treatments, & soon faced one devastating side effect of cancer care…hair loss.
As soon as the team learned of Marijane’s looming loss & need to find a good quality wig for everyday life, Simon Cozzens, the Urban Agriculture Program Manager, immediately volunteered to donate his hair. “It was like hearing a family member had been diagnosed,” he recalled. “I knew Marijane would want to feel as fabulous a woman as ever so when the fact of hair loss came up I said ‘Oh, take this’ and let down my hair.”
Ked Stanfield, Executive Director of Louisville Grows, stepped in & began researching companies in the U.S. that allow directed hair donation for wigs & soon found one in California. After figuring out the details & making a PlumFund account to help cover the cost, Lisa called Marijane & on behalf of the full Louisville Grows team told her what they wanted to do.
In her own words, she “cried like a 4-year old” & was “overwhelmed, grateful & blessed” to have that group of people who had known her for less than a full year, think of such an idea, let alone find a way to make it happen without hesitation.
Simon’s long locks were the color of Marijane’s quickly thinking hair & there was plenty to give. He’d been growing his hair intentionally for five years, and although the reality of cutting it off made him nervous, seeing Marijane’s face when he walked in to get it cut made the nervousness disappear. After the cut Simon said, “I was thrilled to be able to help someone in such a personal way, and seeing my short hair again made me feel refreshed and accomplished. There’s no better way to go through a stressful change than knowing that it was for a great reason.”
Reflecting back on the experience Simons shared, “I met Marijane less than a year ago, but she immediately felt like she could be family. Seeing her go through a personal and vulnerable process and knowing that I can support her in a unique way makes that feeling stronger. I’m helping her feel more like herself with something that was part of myself, and that’s an intimate feeling.”
This experience has made Marijane want to volunteer even more & spend as much time as possible around the Louisville Grows team. As someone who is usually the giver & very independent, she shared that they have taught her “how to accept that it is okay to allow people to do good things and share their love and support.” This gift has been humbling for her & she is overwhelmed with gratitude to Simon & the whole team at Louisville Grows for seeing her as a person outside of her volunteer role & stepping in to help meet a very delicate need at a very trying time.
Someday when her natural hair grows in & she no longer needs a wig each day, she plans to return it to Simon! They also plan to name the wig something that reflects the sass & spunk of the duo who have shared the two feet of tresses. Simon can’t wait to see the final product when the wig arrives & knows Marijane will take good care of it. He’ll enjoy seeing her live confidently in it while battling & recovering from cancer, too.
When asked if he’ll ever re-grow it he said, “Hah! Who knows? I grew my hair out for personal reasons, because I wanted to bring out a certain version of myself. But I’ve changed a lot in five years, and I’m really digging the boy hair and the little braid that I kept on the side. Also, I’m enjoying the ease of having short hair, and I’ve been told I look younger.”
Marijane hopes that people will hear her story & start getting involved with Louisville Grows. If you’re thinking about volunteering somewhere in the city she would love to show you around & help you get connected. “We’re a great group”, said Simon. “It’s a good mix of folks who want to see positive community change, social justice advocates, plant enthusiasts, foodies, and folks who just want to play in the dirt and meet people.”
Having heard this story we believe that this small but mighty team is something to pay attention to. They take care of their family of staff & volunteers in extraordinary ways & are daily doing all they can to make Louisville a healthier, cleaner, & more sustainable place for us all to call home!