February 17th, 2016
the most meaningful manicure in the world
By KIND Editor
Her name was Courtney. She was turning eight years old and diagnosed with a terminal illness. For her birthday, she wanted a manicure party. Beauty Bus, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles, set up a nail polish station, balloons, and music on the patio of the children’s hospital for Courtney, her mother, and two sisters. That’s what Beauty Bus does.
Beauty Bus is an organization that restores hope through beauty services for chronically and terminally ill patients and offers the same services to the caregivers. It is because of this generosity that KIND® has donated a portion of the proceeds from the New York Times Best Seller, Do the Kind Thing, written by KIND® Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky to their organization. The dedication of their volunteers and endless support given to their clients is the kind of humanity that makes the world a better place.
Beauty Bus was co-founded by Wendy Marantz Levine and Alicia Marantz Liotta in memory of their sister and cousin, Melissa Marantz Nealy, who lost her battle with a degenerative neuromuscular disease when she was 28 years old. Inspired by in-home beauty services that Melissa received during her illness, the two launched the Beauty Bus Foundation to “make our clients feel human again.” For the last six years, the Beauty Bus team has groomed over 10,000 men, women, kids, and their caregivers who are fighting chronic and terminal illnesses.
Think of the last time you had the flu. Or a time you couldn’t get out of bed because your stomach hurt. Sickness can take over your entire life. For chronic and terminally ill patients, that’s every day. There’s not a lot of fun, not a lot of escape. Patients are focused on quality of healthcare over the quality of life. Beauty Bus is designed to restore the self-esteem and dignity people once had and long for again, if only for a day. From manicures to facials to make-up to hairstyles, the volunteers donate their time to give patients a much-needed break from blood tests and doctor’s visits. Like in a salon, patients are referred to as clients. They play music. They gossip. They help their clients feel normal.
“We would love to shut our doors someday when there are cures for these diseases, but until there are, we want to be there to offer that little bit of dignity.” – Wendy Marantz Levine
Only the special among us are capable of dealing with the sick, but once the Beauty Bus volunteers saw the difference they made in a person’s life they were all-in. Individuals from Hollywood make-up artists to firefighters with manicurist training give their time, empathy, and graciousness back to complete strangers. “It’s an amazing feeling,” said Debbie Nirenberg, a Beauty Bus volunteer. The volunteers spend countless hours with their clients who are hoping to reclaim the self-worth they never lost, but put aside due to their illness.
One of the most generous aspects of this organization’s services is the offering of beauty services for the caregivers. Statistically, one of three people will be a caregiver in their lifetime, yet there is little dialog about caring for these selfless heroes. Caregivers are usually family or close friends, but their lives are taken over by the illness as well. They become chefs, maids, secretaries, nurses, etc. Like the patients they care for, they often don’t have time for beauty services. Thus, Beauty Bus provides all grooming services for caregivers as well as families of patients. Everyone is included. No one is forgotten among those who sacrifice so much.
“One client wrote and said it was the happiest she had seen her mom in months and the first time she seen her smile like that. She was buried in the red nails we painted that day” – Wendy Marantz Levine
With any non-profit, there are many challenges. One of the biggest challenges is meeting the needs of the clients. Unfortunately, they never have to look for clients. They are always there, waiting for their turn, waiting for someone to break the loneliness of being sick to make them feel beautiful for one day. “We’re constantly getting new clients and always trying to meet their needs,” Wendy said about the future. Though they have a small staff, they’re always fundraising. They have foundation grants, individual donations, and a number of companies supplying beauty products, but you can’t pay your staff in lipstick and nail polish. Funding will always be an issue, but their kindness will last forever.
“A lot of times our skills are looked at as superficial, but when people come and see this and see what a difference it makes…giving someone a haircut who hasn’t had a haircut in six months or giving someone a facial who hasn’t been able to sit down and relax because they are too busy taking care of a family member…they see what kind of difference it makes to their spirit,” Amanda Batts from Beauty Bus staff concluded.
Two years after Courtney’s manicure party, Wendy ran into Courtney and her family at the children’s hospital. The doctors were wrong. Courtney beat her disease and celebrated her 9th and 10th birthdays. When Wendy talked to Courtney’s mother, all she mentioned was how much that manicure day meant to their family. It’s that type of kindness that stays with a family. It’s that type of kindness that matters.
To learn more about the amazing things Beauty Bus is doing, and how you can get involved, visit beautybus.org!