Project Happy Hair at Ronald McDonald House, Durham

Project Happy Hair began in October 2016 when Twisted Scizzors Stylists, Robin Larsen Vitale, met a woman whose two year old toddler was at Duke Hospital undergoing treatment. The family was not from the area and needed to stay close to Duke for treatments. They decided to stay at Ronald McDonald House in Durham.

Robin’s client told her about how she had visited the house and met residents who had traveled from all over the USA to receive the expert treatment and care at Duke. She mentioned many different situations that she encountered that families were going through. No two were the same. Some had cancer, some heart complications, and some brain surgeries. Some families stayed at RMH for a year or more. Other families split childcare coverage with one parent accompanying the child to Duke, the other parent caring for siblings in their home in another state.

The Ronald McDonald House offers a comforting home away from home and a community of support for seriously ill children and their families. They have been doing this since 1980. RMH has a variety of supportive programs and truly give families the comforts of home. There are private bedrooms, community spaces, a laundry room, a playroom and laundry services. Numerous local volunteers help with tasks at the house such as cooking homemade meals for the families.

Robin has worked at Twisted Scizzors Salon in Cary, NC for two and a half years as a Level 2 Master Stylist. Her career and family keep her very busy, but she knew she had to do something. Robin knew she had something special to give; something unique to offer the guest families at RMH. She decided she would volunteer at RMH on her day off. Robin contacted the RMH to inquire if they’d be interested in having a hair stylist spend the afternoon cutting hair for guests families staying at the house.

Ronald McDonald House Volunteer Manager, Clay Ragan remembers the first phone call, “When Robin reached out initially, we were so happy to have someone serve our guest families through cutting hair. We have had stylists throughout the years, but it’s been one and done many times. Robin has created something that is consistent and something that our families can count on. Haircuts are kind of personal and intimate, so a lot of our guests are overwhelmed with the thought of having to find a salon that is a good fit for them in between hospital appointments and treatment schedules. Project Happy Hair makes it easy on our families because the salon comes to them and Robin is able to put them at ease and deliver a great service for free. We are so thankful!”

Since Project Happy Hair has started, Robin has met many families. Some have been living at the Ronald McDonald House for numerous years; some for a few weeks. Regardless of how long a family has been at the house, or the circumstances, Robin wants to help pamper them. She wants to help comfort them and assist in a basic need during this time.

“The whole thing started organically. They set me up in a community room at first. I had a sink accessible, but it was mostly for cleaning my tools. It wasn’t technically a sink to shampoo or rinse hair in. I brought all of my salon tools with me and began to give haircuts,” notes Robin.

A sign-up sheet is circulated to the families early each week. Robin spends every other Friday cutting hair at RMH. With forty-five minutes per person, Robin is usually able to see eight people in her day. At this point, most people come to her with clean, dry hair. Robin wets it down with a spray bottle. So far, this has worked well, however, Robin would like to offer more full-service, salon treatments and services.

With the goal of being able to shampoo, cut and color hair, Robin approached the Ronald McDonalds House a second time in hopes of finding a larger space suitable for a wet sink. To Robin’s delight, a larger space was found and is awaiting its transformation into Project Happy Hair Salon.

Robin knew she needed help from others to make this dream a reality, so she quickly reached out to the beauty community. Small donations trickled in. Sam Villa, award-winning salon professional and his amazing team donated a hair dryer. Many others offered small donations of hair product and brushes.

While this is all wonderful, Robin knows that she needs to find a way to raise the funds to purchase larger items for Project Happy Hair Salon. She’ll need a wet sink station, a chair, mirror and a collapsible counter top much like you see in a traditional salon. She also needs a plumber to take out the old sink and attach the new one. A General Contractor is needed to build partitions and counters to create a more salon-friendly atmosphere. Eventually she’ll need to continually purchase shampoos, conditioners, color treatments and other necessary salon supplies like sanitizers, capes, combs and brushes.

A wet sink can range in price from $800 to $1200; a salon chair $200-$1000. Robin knows that this larger fundraising effort will take some time, but she is hopeful that people in the Triangle will step up to make this happen. Until then, Robin will continue to open Project Happy Hair every other Friday to cut and style hair from its original location.

When asked about her ultimate goal for Project Happy Hair Robin lit up. “I’m hoping fellow stylists throughout the Triangle and local beauty schools will want to volunteer their services and make Project Happy Hair a larger, community effort. I’d like to get to a point where Project Happy Hair Salon is open for a few hours everyday with a stylist staffed for appointments.”

Once it’s successfully operating in the Triangle, she would like to set up other Project Happy Hair Salons in Ronald McDonald houses nationwide. “The outpouring of gratitude from residents has been overwhelming. It truly is an eye opening experience to witness a spirit be uplifted. There is nothing like it,” says Robin.

How you can get involved and help:

Make a donation through by clicking HERE

To offer your stylings services, general contractor or plumbing services, salon products, please email Robin at [email protected]

Robin Larsen Vitale

Twisted Scizzors Salon Stylist and Creator of Project Happy Hair


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