Twenty-eight years ago, Gail Federici heard the worst news a mother could hear. She learned her newborn daughter had Congenital Heart Disease. By the time her daughter was eight, she needed open-heart-surgery, and Federici and her husband were determined to find the best care in the country. Extensive research and numerous phone calls led them to Boston Children’s Hospital.
The surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital were able to make the impossible possible, performing a brand new procedure available nowhere else in the world. The results were exceptional, said Federici, who has watched her daughter grow up, graduate college, and even sing and dance onstage.
Many of us take for granted life’s blessings. Those mundane moments that pass daily without a second thought. Laughter with a friend. A hug goodbye. A kiss before bed.
Gail Federici, however, takes nothing for granted. She lives each day thankful for the precious gift given to her by the physicians at Boston Children’s: her daughter’s life.
Federici’s boundless gratitude moved her to find a way to give back; a way to support the miracle workers at Boston Children’s Hospital and to also help children like her daughter battle and triumph over illness.
She teamed up with longtime business partner John Frieda to start the annual fundraiser HAIRraising in 2010. Each year, salons across Massachusetts and New England participate in a one-day cut-a-thon, providing haircuts at a discount price. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Boston Children’s Hospital, and after four years, HAIRraising has raised over $400K.
Federici’s life hasn’t been short of accomplishments. She was the co-founder and CEO of the legendary John Frieda Professional Hair Care, now leads her own beauty empire Federici Brands, and continues to spearhead industry revolution while still being a devoted mother, wife, and friend. Yet founding HAIRraising undoubtedly occupies a special place among her impressive resume of professional achievements. After all, few things can be more fulfilling than helping mothers like herself fight for their child’s lives.
The 5th annual HAIRraising cut-a-thon is less than three weeks away on April 27th. To gear up for this year’s event, we talked with the incredible Gail Federici about her daughter’s battle with heart disease, the brilliant minds at Boston Children’s Hospital, and her vision for the future of HAIRraising.
BostInno: Where did the idea for HAIRraising originate? How did it progress from an idea to a full-blown fundraiser?
Gail Federici: After we sold our company (John Frieda Professional Hair Care), my long-time business partner John Frieda and I wanted to find a way to give back. My daughter, Alex, was born with congenital heart disease and underwent two open-heart surgeries at Boston Children’s Hospital. I owe everything to them. Her outcome would never have been the same at any other hospital, due to both their pioneering procedures and the depth of talent.
John, who has four children himself, was very moved by my experience and suggested that we work with the hair care industry to raise money for England’s top pediatric Hospital, Great Ormond Street. He called the fundraising initiative HAIRraising. John galvanized the salons in the UK and the results were exceptional. We decided to bring it to America to benefit the top ranked US hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital.
How has the response of the salon and hair care been industry to this event?
We have had such an amazing response from the salon and hair care industry. We’ve had support from corporate hair care brands, celebrity stylists like Sally Hershberger and Ted Gibson, hair care distributors and more. But it’s really all about the salons who have taken on this cause with such commitment and spirited generosity. We’re proud that we’ve received support from salons not only in Massachusetts and New England, but also salons in Washington, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and more.
This is the FIFTH year you’ve organized HAIRraising. How has the event itself evolved since 2010 and how has your personal experience of HAIRraising changed each year?
We have learned a lot since our first year. We’re not experts in fundraising. Thankfully, we get a lot of inspiration and great feedback from our co-chairs and event partners and we’ve been able to integrate much of this feedback into our plans. Last year was our fourth year and it was a pivotal one. Salons were calling us early to ask about the event. They were more pro-active than ever. They had developed many different strategies to raise funds beyond the cut-a-thon. Their creativity and commitment is inspirational and it is because of their thinking and heartfelt efforts that we keep exceeding our goals.
How do the funds raised benefit Boston Children’s Hospital?
The funds raised through HAIRraising go towards the Children’s Fund which supports a number of critically important initiatives at the hospital. This fund provides care for sick children and also helps to fund the groundbreaking research projects that not only help make them better, but also save the lives of children and adults around the world.
Last year, following the marathon bombings, we designated our funds to the emergency and trauma unit at the hospital, but in general our support goes to helping the hospital do all the things they do better than anyone else.
What is the most rewarding part of your work with HAIRraising?
Knowing that, even in a small way, we can do our part to help further the awe-inspiring work being done at Boston Children’s Hospital is very rewarding. We know the hospital relies on philanthropy for research. We know that the Boston Children’s is often a place of last resort for the world’s sickest children and it takes ongoing funds to keep hope alive.
Spreading the word about the work being done at BCH is also very important to us. So many people think of Boston as simply a regional hospital. They don’t realize it is the #1 pediatric hospital in the world. It is the think tank for the best minds in medicine, the teaching hospital for Harvard University and home to so many of the medical advancements that have been life changing for people everywhere. Helping to communicate that message is important.
If even one family with a very sick child learns about BCH through this initiative, I know they have placed their child in the best hands. That is best reward.
What is your vision for the future of this event?
We want to keep adding salons every year. We hope through this initiative salons, hair care manufacturers and distributors from all over the country will participate because they realize that Boston Children’s Hospital, much like St. Jude’s, but on a larger scale, treats the sickest children from every state and from all over the world and they need our help to keep going “until every child is well.”