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South Lyon PD grows beards to support Pigs 4 Wigs

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: April 3, 2018

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Residents may have wondered why South Lyon Police all seemed to be sporting beards in November and Officers were counting on residents asking them why. It’s because they joined forces with nine area police departments to benefit Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that helps children suffering from ailments that affect their appearance.

Wigs 4 Kids Wellness Center provides wigs and social and psychological assistance support services at no charge to children and young adults, ages 3-18, experiencing hair loss due to cancer, alopecia, trichotillomania, burns and other disorders. Maggie Varney, Founder & CEO, is a cosmetologist who has worked with adult patients through the American Cancer Society’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program for 28 years.

Photo by Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor                                                                                               Lt. Christopher Sovik and other South Lyon Police Command and Patrol Officers grew beards to benefit Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan.

“We’ve serviced over 4,000 children since we started this program 14 years ago in 2003,” Varney said. “We opened the Wellness Center seven years ago and Pigs 4 Wigs came on board two years after that.”

South Lyon Command Officers, a POLC unit, and Patrol posted information about the Pigs 4 Wigs No-Shave November fundraiser on Facebook, inviting community members to come to the station with cash, check or credit card donations. “A lot of people have been dropping in and donating for a good cause,” said Lt. Christopher Sovik in November.

Since Police Officers are expected to maintain a professional public appearance, they cannot grow their hair out to make the wigs. So Lt. Sovik and other male officers from South Lyon along with POLC-represented units in Brighton, Ferndale and Hazel Park, grew beards instead. “This is the first year we’ve been doing it,” Sovik said of South Lyon Command and Patrol. “It’s the longest I’ve been without shaving in my life.”

“What was really great, not only did it raise funds, but we’re not used to seeing officers with beards. It stirred conversation,” Varney said. “It gave them the opportunity to constantly talk about it, whether at family gatherings or in the community. This was just remarkable.”

Each officer donated a minimum of $50 to participate in the campaign. South Lyon PD raised $1,050. “Apparently, some other departments have over $3,000 and $5,000,” Sovik said. “I think it’s going to be record breaking for them this year.”

Sovik was right. The 10 departments raised $38,984 compared to $10,559 in 2016. “We doubled. I think last year we had five or six (departments). Now we have 10,” Varney said.

Village of Wolverine Lake Police Chief John Ellsworth went head-to-head with Reserve Officer Steve Grunwald, a celebrity DJ at country western radio station 99.5 WYCD. Ellsworth raised $6,895, but Grunwald gathered donations from his celebrity friends totaling $14,525 and Wolverine Lake officers donated another $400.

“The Chief ended up having to shave his head,” Varney said. What started as a joke ended with a serious donation of $21,820.

While Varney has a brother, son-in-law, cousin and uncle active or retired from law enforcement, that’s not how police became involved in Wigs 4 Kids. Milford Police began working with the program five years ago. “My whole family has dedicated their whole life being a servant of the community and they didn’t even know my family was in law enforcement,” Varney said. “It was Detective Sgt. Scott (Tarasiewicz) who spearheaded it and Dan Caldwell took it over.”

The Milford Officers found out two students in their area were using Wigs 4 Kids services. “Some of the officers’ children went to school with those kids,” Varney said.

South Lyon Sgt. Doug Baaki, found out about Pigs 4 Wigs through Lakes Area Citizen’s Police Academy in Milford where he is a liason. “It kept growing every year,” Varney said. “Not only are we about raising funds but raising awareness for kids in need of our services.”

Baaki brought the fundraiser to the attention of the City Manager and Chief of Police Lloyd Collins, who approved it. But Chief Collins drew the line at putting his razor down. “He said, ‘Someone’s got to look professional around here,’” Sovik said.

Wigs 4 Kids not only helps children with appearance related challenges of their illnesses, the program continues to provide services to families who have lost a child. “We charge nothing for any of the services we provide for our children,” Varney said. “Even after, when they lose their child and they’re picking up the pieces of their life and still putting it back together. All the therapy, that’s what this money is raised for.”

For more information on Wigs 4 Kids, please visit http://www.wigs4kids.org/

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