Beauty Bus offers haircuts and hope to L.A.'s terminally ill patients

Volunteers with the Beauty Bus Foundation not only provide beauty and grooming services for chronically or terminally ill patients and their caregivers. They also offer up hope.

A top-of-the-line haircut or manicure is something most people like to indulge in from time to time. But what about people who can't physically make it out of their homes to a salon or spa to pamper themselves?

The Beauty Bus Foundation, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit, makes free, monthly house calls for terminally or chronically ill patients and their primary caregivers, who often can't get away.


Haircuts, facials, mani/pedis and makeup application are some of the services Beauty Bus' licensed volunteer beauty professionals offer their 150 clients. They also offer pop-up salons in hospitals and social service agencies.

One client is 57-year-old Linda Levy, who said she hasn't left her Winnetka home much in the past year, except for medical appointments. The wife and mother of four underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor on Christmas Day 2013.

"I wasn't really thinking about pampering myself," Levy said.

Each client receives two services a visit, which they can keep for themselves or give to their primary caregiver, often a spouse or other family member also in need of a pick-me-up.

Clients and caregivers receive "bags of beauty" filled with donated skin- and hair-care products from a beauty buddy volunteer, such as Patti Amaral.

"My role as a beauty buddy is to bring a part of the outside world into their home," said Amaral, a retired film production accountant.

Amaral was once a caregiver to a girlfriend who suffered from dementia.

"Their life is all about medication, nurses, blood pressure," she said, adding that clients and caregivers "don't really have someone to just chat with," like they would at a beauty salon.

Robert Levy, Linda's husband of 31 years and her primary caregiver, said the monthly Beauty Bus visits have helped lift his wife's spirits.

"She has come a long way from chemotherapy and radiation after her surgery," he said tearfully. "They pamper her" and "it just makes her feel like a new person."

In Topanga, Karn Myers and her husband of 37 years, Mark Dodge, who has ALS, were scheduled for haircuts.

Though he can no longer speak, walk or breathe on his own, Dodge writes sweet poems for his wife using a computer with eye-tracking technology.

"Our love bond is stronger than ever," said Dodge's computerized voice.

Myers is Dodge's primary caregiver.


"After a while, I just couldn't physically lift him to get him out of the house and in the car to get a haircut," Myers said.

The Beauty Bus visits are "very important to us," Myers said. "By them coming here and taking care of his basic need … it made Mark feel good when he went out in public," and "it's something I know he looks forward to."

Twitter: @sarahHwaris