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Local hair salons donate funds to anti-bullying organization

Date: 1/25/2018

AGAWAM – Hair salons across Western Massachusetts took a stance against bullying by donating proceeds from an October fundraiser to an anti-bullying organization.

When Kelly Murphy, owner of Cutting Edge Salon and Day Spa, attended a fashion show hosted by Unify Against Bullying a few years ago, she knew she wanted to contribute to the cause. The non-profit’s fashion show focused on celebrating diversity in gender, sexual orientation, race and ability.

“The show just blew us away,” she said. “I instantly wanted to get involved, so I was trying to think of what I could do for them. Because I’m a salon owner, I thought, ‘Why not get the beauty industry together for an awesome cause?’”

Soon after, Murphy created “Blowouts Against Bullying,” an annual Cut-A-Thon event in which salons come together to donate all proceeds from haircuts, blowouts and styling to Unify. The event takes place every October, which is national bullying prevention month.

The salon owner – who is now a board member on Unify – hosted her first Cut-A-Thon in 2016, with a total of two salons participating. However, last October, six salons – five in Western Massachusetts and one in Melrose – participated.

Paul Mitchell and other area businesses donated supplies for the event.

On Jan. 17, Murphy presented a check of more than $2,000 to Unify Executive Director Christine Maiwald and Unify Founder Edward Zemba. The other participating salons – Gasoline Alley, Hair West, Spa West, New Decadence Hair Designers and Siciliano Salon – presented their own checks as well. Overall, the salons raised a total of around $5,400.

Maiwald, who is the non-profit’s first executive director, said she has been thrilled about the fundraiser and to have Murphy involved.

“Murphy’s done a phenomenal job, and we’re just so excited to have her on board,” she said.

Since its inception in early 2016, Unify’s mission has been committed to bringing an end to bullying through the celebration of “true diversity,” Maiwald explained.

The organization strives to bring awareness through peer presentations in schools and providing grants to those who are in the best position to “make a difference”– such as children, parents, teachers and grassroots community organizations.

“There are so many kids that are being bullied and they kind of live in a little bit of a quiet desperation,” Maiwald said. “We want to raise awareness and let them know that they’re not alone – that they’re surrounded by a local community and family that cares about them.”

According to, bullying is the most common form of violence. Around 3.7 million youth engage in it, and more than 3.2 million are victims of bullying annually. The site offers a range of other bullying statistics:

• An estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or intimidation by other students.

• Direct, physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school, and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.

• In surveys of third - eighth graders in 14 Massachusetts schools, nearly half who had been frequently bullied, reported that the bullying had lasted six months or longer (Mullin-Rindler, 2003).

• Peers are present in 85 - 88 percent of bullying incidents, yet only 10 percent intervene when it happens in the classroom (Atlas & Pepler, 1998) and 19 percent on the playground Craig & Pepler, 1997, 2000).

• 72 percent of teens report "at least one incident" of bullying online; 90 percent did NOT report the incident to an adult and 50 percent believed they “just need to learn to deal with it” (UCLA 2008 study).

However, Maiwald said it’s difficult to find up-to-date statistics, and attributes the Internet and social media as a new, complex factor in modern-day bullying.

“Unfortunately, with cyberbullying today, the kids can’t escape their torment,” she said. “Years ago, people who were bullied were able to go home to the safety of their own home. Today, they can’t escape it.”

Cell phones might also play a role in why children won’t tell their parents about being bullied, she explained, in the fear that their phones could be taken away.

She said it’s important for parents and other adults to recognize the signs of bullying.

Children who are bullied are more likely than their peers to be depressed, lonely and anxious she said. They could also have low self-esteem, feel unwell more often than kids who aren’t bullied, have more migraine headaches and think about suicide.

If a parent thinks their child is being bullied, communication is key she said.

“First thing you want to do is to try and keep the lines of communication open with your child,” Maiwald said. “In a non-threatening way, you could ask what the best thing about their day was and what the worst that happened was. Sometimes, when it’s kind of slid in that way, the child will share.”

If that doesn’t work, Maiwald suggests reaching out to the child’s school to check in with teachers to ask them about their observations. She said parents should emphasize to the school that they want to work with the staff to find a solution and develop a plan.

Unify is in the process of building a resource page for their website, where they will offer hotlines among other things for parents and kids wanting to learn more about bullying.

The organization is also hoping to branch out to other locations in the future.

“Our thoughts are to be global, eventually, but right now what we want to do is refine everything here, first, before we can have that model and take it all over,” she said.

Salon owners interested in participating in this year’s Cut-A-Thon may contact Maiwald at